The last time I decided it was a good idea to drive down from Connecticut to a show in New York, I wound up in sitting traffic for twice as long as it should have taken, only to get to an overcrowded Webster Hall and stand in the back while the Melvins stormed through a set I could barely see. How long for the lesson to be forgotten? Just under four months, apparently.
Fortunately, the ride this time wasn’t that bad at all. Two hours in the car is perfectly acceptable as far as I’m concerned; the trip has taken me that long from Jersey plenty of times, and hey, I go where the shows go. Nowadays, they go to Union Pool, so that’s where I go.
I’d never been there before, but it was Hour of 13‘s first show in the US, and I wasn’t about to miss that, remembering how much ass their 2007 self-titled CD kicked and hoping to pick up a copy of this year’s The Ritualist on Eyes Like Snow. They didn’t wind up having any for sale, but their set, which they played to a packed house of faces both familiar among the NYC doom faithful and not, was worth the trip anyway.
They opened with “Call to Satan” from the self-titled, and it was an appropriately ritualistic beginning to a set of occult doom worship. I knew that Hour of 13‘s core duo of guitarist Chad Davis and vocalist Phil Swanson had assembled a band around them, but I was a little surprised to see a second guitarist sharing the stage, as amiable a job as the neck-tatted Brandon Munday did. I guess something in me just always pictured Hour of 13 as a single guitar band, bringing out more of the desolate, abandoned feel. Killer tones all around, and I’d hardly call it a disappointment (hell, Judas Priest did it), it just wasn’t quite what I was expecting.
The rhythm section of bassist John Mode and drummer Dave Easter filled their roles suitably, not really breaking out into anything special, but not giving any sense they should have been, either. Hour of 13 evoke a very specific atmosphere, and if any one player, Swanson and Davis included, really stuck out and started doing rock star turns or showing off, it just wouldn’t work. Nobody takes a six minute solo, everybody dooms out. It’s a solid ethic to live by if you’re playing this kind of music.
It was certainly enough to win over the crowd. Approvals ranged from slow, matched-to-snare nods to full-on headbanging, and I’m sure I saw The Gates of Slumber guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon throw a claw or two down in front of the stage. It was hard to argue with any of it, as Hour of 13 pretty much killed it for the whole set, Davis checking in on the audience every now and again and smiling as Swanson kept an eerie presence behind the mic.
The Gates of Slumber closed the show, and as much as I wanted to see them with their new drummer, it was already midnight and I still had the two hours back to Connecticut to think about. I’ve little doubt they kicked ass, as that seems to be their thing, but as I got off exit 59 at quarter to two in the morning, it was still Hour of 13 I was thinking about, wondering if now that they’re signed to Earache and have gotten the first one out of the way, they’ll be playing more shows. Here’s hoping, because if there were, I don’t know, 16 or 17 more rounds of that on offer, I think I’d have to go for it every time.
Tags: Earache, Hour of 13, North Carolina