Vestal Claret Stream “The Stranger” from The Cult of Vestal Claret

There are many lyricists who delve into occult themes, devil-worship, carnal violence, etc., in their work, but I can’t think of anyone who pushes the boundaries quite as much as Phil Swanson. Noted for his tenures in Hour of 13 and Seamount — as well as the underappreciated Upwards of Endtime, Earthlord and a slew of others — the Connecticut-based singer seems most at home reveling in the taboo, testing and periodically crossing the line between decency and the profane. It’s not the cartoon chainsawing of death metal; there’s something more cerebral and corrupted about his approach. In Vestal Claret, he partners with multi-instrumentalist/engineer Simon Tuozzoli, also of King of Salem, and he seems to have found an avenue for his darkest output yet.

Vestal Claret‘s story is complicated, but in 2013, the three-piece of Swanson, Tuozzoli and drummer Michael Petrucci (also of King of Salem and Curse the Son) released their full-length debut, Bloodbath (review here), after putting the same record out on vinyl with various guests singing in 2011. Now signed to Cruz del Sur Music, the follow-up, The Cult of Vestal Claret, arrives quickly on the heels of its predecessor and furthers the duo’s (Petrucci played drums, but is no longer listed as a permanent member) fetish for psychotic explorations and traditional Sabbathian metal, tracks like “Never Say No Again,” “Piece of Meat,” the startlingly progressive 16-minute “Black Priest” and closer “The Stranger” churning with malevolent riffs, classically-styled lead work and of course Swanson‘s trademark bite.

Handling guitar, bass, organ and backing vocals in addition to the recording, Tuozzoli manages to evoke a full-band feel across The Cult of Vestal Claret‘s nine-song course (the LP has a different tracklisting than the CD, with sundry bonus cuts for each), boldly taking on Black Sabbath‘s “Who are You?” and matching the swing and pace of the original before letting loose one final creep-out with “The Stranger.” The latter track begins acoustically — there are unplugged moments throughout, feeding into the classic metal atmosphere — before moving into one of the record’s most righteous riffs, Swanson‘s vocals arriving with an immediate threat on which the song itself seems to make good, only getting more twisted as it progresses.

They are not looking to sicken simply for shock value, and there is an underlying intelligence and subtlety to what Vestal Claret does, so even if they offend, they’re offending with art and forcing the listener to confront what it is about their material that proves so disturbing. Take a listen to “The Stranger” on the player below and see where you stand:

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Vestal Claret release The Cult of Vestal Claret on May 6 via Cruz del Sur. More info below, courtesy of the PR wire:

U.S. Occult Heavy Metallers VESTAL CLARET will release The Cult of Vestal Claret through Cruz del Sur Music on May 6 in North America. The album will be available on CD and vinyl LP formats; each with different track listings.

The compact disc edition includes newly recorded versions of four previously released tracks from the split with Ungod, and the long suite “Black Priest” (a different, re-recorded version from the one present on the split with Indian band ALBATROSS). The CD also contains two unreleased songs, a cover version of BLACK SABBATH’s “Who Are You?”, and an exclusive CD-only track titled “Great Goat God.” The vinyl LP includes two songs from the Ungod split, the two unreleased tracks, and an exclusive vinyl-only track titled “So Mote it Be.”

Track List
CD
1. Never Say No Again
2. Three and Three Are Six
3. The Cult of the Vestal
4. Great Goat God
5. The Demon and the Deceiver
6. Piece of Meat
7. Black Priest
8. Who Are You
9. The Stranger

Vinyl LP
1. Never Say No Again
2. Three and Three Are Six
3. The Cult of the Vestal
4. The Stranger
5. So Mote it Be
6. Black Priest

Vestal Claret on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music

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