Hour of 13 Reveal More Details for Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well, we still don’t have a full tracklisting, artwork, or a solid release date, but more details have come through about the rare tracks comp, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased, that is serving as the marker for Hour of 13‘s reactivation, first announced here. The forthcoming comp on Shadow Kingdom will be the band’s first outing since 2012’s 333 (discussed here) and in detailing the origins of some of the tracks included, the label paints an image covering the band’s entire (initial run), and then goes as far as to confirm a new album in the works for 2017. My understanding is there are some contingencies to align before founding multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis and company hit the studio — for example, who “company” is — but however and whenever they get there, it seems inevitable if Hour of 13 is truly going to be a band again that a next record would happen at some juncture. Now the question is, will they tour?

Looking forward to this one, which will reportedly be out before the end of this year. Shadow Kingdom forwarded this along the PR wire:


HOUR OF 13 rejoin forces with Shadow Kingdom!

SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to present a long-overdue demos & rarities collection from thee immortal HOUR OF 13, appropriately titled Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased. Across this massive collection, one will find HOUR OF 13’s very first steps into doom metal godhood, alongside alternate recordings of fan favorites.

Listening to Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, it becomes quickly apparent that something truly special was being birthed upon the band’s first recorded notes. The first half of this collection – or sides A and B of the double-vinyl edition – comprise demos recorded in 2007. The first three songs were the very first written by HOUR OF 13 in November 2006 and then recorded not long after; the next five songs were recorded nearly a year later. Together, these eight songs would form the foundation of the band’s now-classic debut album, released by SHADOW KINGDOM as Hour of 13. Although recognizably HOUR OF 13, these early demo versions of the debut album’s songs have slightly different arrangements while others have slightly different vocals, but every single bit of the band’s trademark atmosphere is plentiful and poignant. Verily, this is the sound of lingering incense and burning blood.

During the second half of Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, we find a number of alternate recordings, some with special circumstances surrounding them. On side C is an alternate full-band recording of “Call To Satan,” recorded at the HOUR OF 13 rehearsal spot, alongside an alternate version of “The Rites of Samhain” with fully correct lyric placement and vocals by main man Chad Davis. But most poignantly is the song “Upon Black Wings We Die,” written and recorded within a matter of a few hours upon hearing the news of the passing of Jason McCash from The Gates Of Slumber. On side D are the complete Candlemass Eve Recordings, the second rehearsal with Beaten Back to Pure’s Ben Hogg on vocals: all recorded in a single session on a Zoom H2 microphone in the room, captured here with a newfound energy and stirring vocal performance. Feel the ancient atmosphere of early metal rehearsal rooms of yesteryear here!

As founder Chad Davis states in the liner notes to Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, “This album documents the times and tribulations that had shrouded HOUR OF 13, the early days of rejuvenation along with the dark days of contemplation, and serve as a testament of an entity capable of withstanding any obstacle in its path.” So far, the definitive HOUR OF 13 collection – and the cultest. Praise Him and enter the abyss!

More news regarding the track listing and album cover will be revealed soon!

HOUR OF 13 are currently working on a new album for 2017! More news will follow soon about that as well.


Hour of 13, “Upon Black Wings We Die”

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Hour of 13 Announce Return; Rare Tracks Compilation Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

The last time we heard from Hour of 13 was in Spring 2014, when the band issued what would be their final track in a tribute to the recently-departed Jason McCash from The Gates of Slumber. By then, founding multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis had already taken the band through three somewhat tumultuous albums, beginning with their 2007 self-titled on Shadow Kingdom and then moving to Eyes Like Snow/Earache for 2010’s The Ritualist (streamed here) and Earache alone for what would become their swansong in 2012’s 333 (discussed here).

After trading out frontman Phil Swanson for Ben Hogg, also of Beaten Back to Pure, the band continued on for a while but eventually came apart with the previously-noted “Upon Black Wings We Die,” Davis moving on to a number of other projects, among them Night Magic, which was started in 2015 to be a direct continuation of what Hour of 13 accomplished.

Reportedly before the end of this year, Hour of 13 will join forces with Shadow Kingdom to release Salt the Dead, a collection of rare and otherwise unreleased tracks that will mark their return to existence as a band. Davis, who has since relocated to the West Coast, has put the project in motion officially a decade after it first started and announced his still-somewhat-murky (as if he’d have it any other way) path forward thusly:


HOUR OF 13 – Statement – 10-1-2016

2006 was an immense year for influence and creation. A simple session of writing spawned three songs that paved the way for a debut album destined to return American Heavy Metal back to the forefront of the underground Metal scene. And with the release came a quick acclaim, building up a following that the entity itself never saw coming. Throughout its lifespan, HOUR OF 13 has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Not ever really existing in the other classes of bands within its scene, it paved a path of Darkness and gloom that solidified its place within the tops of the genre. All that rise must fall…

Due to a professional ordeal that was both good and bad, along with the passing of some of its closest friends, the idea to lay it to rest until the right time was evident and heeded. Coupled with all of the problems, departures and returns, backlash and all around trash talk, the ideals were continued under the NIGHT MAGIC name. The slumber for Ho13 in its name had been thought to be eternal. Forever.

But, as we all know, NOTHING is forever..

As of 10-1-2016, I am pleased to announce the chains of past problems have been broken, and with the aid and support of the following gained within its initial unveiling, HOUR OF 13 have resumed exactly where it was laid to rest. To be honest, I myself have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the day this could be. All I have wanted was to feel the fires of creation rise, and I am more than excited to be able to continue the original intent of HOUR OF 13. Complete details as to the current incarnation of this rebirth is unknown at the moment. However, to be able to bring to you, the supporters, this return is very much my namesake.

With this return also comes the announcement of an HOUR OF 13 retrospective double LP/CD/Cassette release coming later this year. Titled “Salt The Dead: Rare and Unreleased”, this collection contains material from the beginning up until its rest. Shadow Kingdom Records, who gave Ho13 its initial push with the release of the debut album, will release this collection. More info will be announced when the release dates are known.

Hails to each and every one of you. I honor your support til the ends of the Earth. In His name we praise the fires of Hell!

Chad Davis – HOUR OF 13


Hour of 13, “Upon Black Wings We Die”

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Attalla Announce West Coast Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

attalla west coast dates

Wisconsin’s Attalla — not to be confused with the differently-spelled Californian outfit of the same name — have done the requisite van maintenance and are ready to hit the road once more next month. They head west starting July 7, pretty much on a straight shot, actually, first to Minneapolis and then making their way toward the West Coast for a swath of shows in Washington, Oregon and north and south in California that then turn back inland and route them back through the Midwest.

It was last July that Attalla toured along the East Coast, so safe to say they’re putting their vacation time to good use once again, and now will have covered the entire country from one end to the other.

They go still supporting their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), which has newly seen reissue through Shadow Kingdom Records, and also to herald new material in the works for what I hear is a forthcoming LP.

More on that to come. For now, dates:

attalla west coast poster

ATTALLA – West Coast Tour Dates

ATTALLA is hitting the road again this summer. We’re heading west this time and couldn’t be more excited for these dates! Here are our tour dates!

ATTALLA – West Coast Tour 2016
7/07/2016 Minneapolis, MN – Cabooze
7/08/2016 Minneapolis, MN – Eagles Club
7/09/2016 Fargo, ND – The Aquarium
7/10/2016 Sioux Falls, SD – Bigs Bar
7/11/2016 Rapid City, SD – Black Hills Vinyl
7/12/2016 Billings, MT – Railyard
7/13/2016 Spokane, WA – The Checkerboard
7/14/2016 Seattle, WA – High Dive
7/15/2016 Portland, OR – The Know
7/16/2016 Chico, CA – TBA
7/17/2016 Sacramento, CA – Starlite Lounge
7/18/2016 Pacifica, CA – Winter’s Tavern
7/19/2016 Oakland, CA – The Golden Bull
7/20/2016 Los Angeles, CA – The Complex
7/21/2016 San Diego, CA – The Merrow
7/22/2016 Tucson, AZ – Surly Wench
7/23/2016 Phoenix, AZ – The Sandlot
7/24/2016 Las Vegas, NV – The Warehouse
7/25/2016 Logan, UT – Why Sound
7/26/2016 Colorado Springs, CO – Flux Capacitor
7/27/2016 Denver, CO – TBA
7/28/2016 Omaha, NE – Shamrocks
7/29/2016 Kansas City, MS – MiniBar
7/30/2016 Rockford, IL – Mary’s Place

@attallawi on Instagram

Attalla, Attalla (2014)

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Venomous Maximus Announce New Album No Warning

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Hate to point it out, but for an album titled No Warning, Houston dark heavy rockers Venomous Maximus are actually giving considerable warning of its arrival. It hasn’t been recorded yet! When the band hits the studio later this month, they’ll do so with Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust at the helm, and the to-be-resultant offering is currently slated for a Fall 2016 release via Shadow Kingdom, which also released the band’s 2015 outing, Firewalker (review here).

One can’t help but wonder if the witch in the tentative song title “Return of the Witch” is the same one featured on 2011’s The Mission (review here) in “Give up the Witch.” Would make an awful lot of sense, since Venomous Maximus note below they’re playing to their strengths in the new material, and that track would certainly qualify as such. Any good horror show deserves a sequel, so fair enough if it actually is one.

The PR wire takes it from here:

venomous maximus

VENOMOUS MAXIMUS Tap TOXIC HOLOCAUST’s Joel Grind to Produce New Album

Award-Winning Houston Metal Band to Release New LP this Fall

Dark metal band VENOMOUS MAXIMUS will enter Portland, Oregon’s Falcon Studios on June 21 to record the follow-up to their celebrated 2015 release, Firewalker. Tentatively titled, No Warning, the album will be produced and engineered by Toxic Holocaust front man Joel Grind (Poison Idea, Lord Dying). A fall, 2016 release date via Shadow Kingdom Records is expected.

“‘No Warning’ will point a magnifying glass directly towards this band’s biggest strengths,” comments VENOMOUS MAXIMUS vocalist / guitarist Gregg Higgins. “Prepare for riff after riff on top of riffs.” Tentative song titles include “Return of the Witch”, “No Warning” and “Spellblind”.

The release of last year’s heralded LP, Firewalker, thrust VENOMOUS MAXIMUS into the higher reaches of the international hard-and-heavy music scene. The quartet followed the release of the LP with a full U.S. tour alongside metal heroes HIGH ON FIRE.

In addition to Gregg Higgins, VENOMOUS MAXIMUS features Christian Larson (guitar), Trevi Biles (bass) and Bongo (drums).


Venomous Maximus, Firewalker (2015)

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Attalla to Release Self-Titled Debut on Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Wisconsin four-piece Attalla self-released their self-titled self-debut (as in, their debut as themselves — keep up; also review here) in the midst of summer 2014. Shadow Kingdom Records, whose taste in heavy is both varied and killer, has stepped up to give the album a look this June. The band put it out on vinyl themselves, and the CD I got to write about was in a sleeve, but the Pittsburgh imprint seems intent on doing it up right for a compact disc, tape and download, and that’s not at all something I’m going to complain about. If you need a refresher on the record, it’s streaming in its entirety below.

You know how it goes. The PR wire has details:

attalla attalla

ATTALLA set release date for SHADOW KINGDOM debut

On June 3rd, prepare for total amplifier worship: Attalla’s self-titled debut album will be released by Shadow Kingdom Records on CD, cassette, and digital formats. Marrying the stoned swagger of early Sabbath to the leafiest of ’70s hard rock, this Wisconsin quartet don’t so much go back in time as stop time itself. Lumbering, doomed-out rhythms roll forward and engulf the listener in a lysergic haze, while the thick ‘n’ moist riffs pulse and pound with an insistence that’s totally entrancing.

In fact, the album’s cryptic song titles – chronologically “Light,” “Haze,” “Lust,” “Thorn,” “Veil,” and “Doom” – vividly portray the trip to come. Too dark for regular hard rock but still committed to its earthier values without traversing into proto-metal territory, Attalla could verily be a sonic document of 1973, unearthed today. And yet, undeniably retro as the record may be, Attalla brim with a potency that’s timeless and wholly appealing to a wide swath of rock and metal listeners, and in vocalist Cody Stieg, the band has a great ROCK voice not unlike The Cult’s Ian Astbury. Spark up and drop out! Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Attalla’s Attalla
1. Light
2. Haze
3. Lust
4. Thorn
5. Veil
6. Doom


Attalla, Attalla (2014)

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Friday Full-Length: Pagan Altar, Lords of Hypocrisy

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Pagan Altar, Lords of Hypocrisy (2004)

I’ve been thinking of late about heavy rock in the ’80s, and just where the hell it went. By 1975, many of the bands who were slinging riffs a’plenty just four or five years earlier were distant private press memories. Or they went prog. Or they grew into more commercial arena rock. Disco, contrary to what was thought at the time, didn’t kill rock and roll. Heavy metal was quickly taking shape in the mid-’70s and punk was doing the same thing. Certainly the ’80s — and I’m sorry for generalizing an entire decade, but one has to categorize these things somehow or the brain will explode — had no shortage of rock and roll, from L.A. glam to East Coast hardcore and everything in between. There were some bands on the West Coast dipping into psychedelia in the early ’80s for the so-called “paisley underground,” but the hardest-hitting of them didn’t come close to the kind of heft that groups were producing a decade earlier. The heavy, it seems, went in a different direction altogether.

It got darker, turned to the atmosphere of its riffy roots and, as with bands like Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General and many others, established a principal tenet of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that holds firm throughout many metallic subgenres today: It started taking itself very seriously. Yeah, there were chains, and fire, and sometimes Rob Halford rode in on a motorcycle (by “sometimes,” I mean every show), but if you wanted fluff, go listen to dance music. Heavy metal was serious business.

Not really fair to call this the beginning of doom, since like rock and roll itself, doom is traceable back to the blues in the early 20th century, but it’s a pivotal moment for understanding what we consider doom metal today, and why we consider one record doom and another one not. Pagan Altar‘s Lords of Hypocrisy — recorded between 1982-1984 and left to languish for the next two decades until a 2004 re-recording and release (2013 reissues on Shadow Kingdom and Cruz del Sur) — is a prime example. The vocabulary and the delineation between metal and doom might not have existed the same way it does 30-plus years later, but Lords of Hypocrisy is every bit a doom record in intent as well as execution.

We know names like Trouble, Candlemass, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Pentagram and so on, and these are pivotal acts, but divide seems so extreme between the bright, made-up dopey smiles of glam and the no-fun-all-drugs downerism of early doom metal (and, for that matter, thrash, which had just about everything in common with doom except tempo), that I can’t help but think of political party lines being drawn and remaining uncrossed. I wasn’t there — I was four in 1985 and not that cool a kid, sorry — but it seems to me that what would’ve been the middle ground between these polar opposites was solid, engaging, by-then-traditional heavy rock and roll. Where were the new bands, not ’70s holdovers in metal, punk or rock, doing that?

For Pagan Altar‘s part, they remain thoroughly underappreciated, mostly in terms of what they could’ve contributed atmospherically to the NWOBHM at the time had they managed to get a record out. Their debut, Volume 1 was tracked in 1982 and released in 1998, by then following up an impressive self-titled demo released 16 years prior. Lords of Hypocrisy is a prime marriage of elder methods and modern sound that few in the NWOBHM or out of it have managed to capture, completely absent the self-indulgent grandiosity of Iron Maiden or or the strange, half-hearted attempts of many of Pagan Altar‘s contemporaries to recapture something that was lost, its rawness and honesty bleed through the quiet stretches of “Armageddon” as much as the quick, comical “The Devil Came Down to Brockley” — Brockley, UK, being the band’s home — or the building emotionalism of “The Masquerade,” and it’s simply a superior level of output. It’s not as clean or crisp sounding as any number of records by Saxon, but like Witchfinder General, like Venom and others, Pagan Altar were always shooting for a different kind of heavy.

The band, reactivated since 2004, suffered a tragedy last year with the death of founding vocalist Terry Jones. At the time, they were said to have a new album, titled Never Quite Dead, in the mastering stage, but there’s been no word since about whether or not it will ultimately surface posthumous to Jones‘ contributions. His passing was a greater loss than heavy metal realized.

But of course, the work remains, and in the case of Lords of Hypocrisy, it’s amazing how vital this material sounds for having sat around for 20 years. Part of the appeal of doom very often is that it sounds like it’s from another time. In this, as in the best of cases, that seems to make it timeless. Hope you enjoy.

Busted laptop. Jury duty. The radio stream down. A full-time job. The goddamned Quarterly Review. A whole pastiche of ongoing medical shit. It’s a good thing The Patient Mrs. wasn’t around for most of this week, because I’ll be completely honest with you, I was a friggin’ wreck. After I finished writing the last of the posts for today last night, I pretty much curled up in the fetal position on the couch, put on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and was about as mentally ready to completely check out as I can remember being in a long, long time. It has been a draining few days and I’m looking forward to a restorative weekend. I hope to sleep until 10AM at least once.

The Patient Mrs. returned last night, incidentally, and today took about five seconds out of her own busy existence to bring mine into order, which was thoroughly appreciated and duly humbling, as I no doubt would’ve continued my caveman flailing until finally clubbing myself in the face and losing consciousness, existentially speaking. I cannot begin to tell you how fortunate I am to have her in my life.

I’m also heaving a sigh of relief today because jury duty didn’t result in me being picked for anything. Basically I gave up a morning and an early part of an afternoon to the cause of being called up to a judge’s sidebar and telling him that I don’t believe in human impartiality. Might’ve been worth it if I’d had been able to bring a functioning laptop with me to dick around on during the mind-numbing stretches of waiting in the jury pool. “Would you differently consider the testimony of a policeman rather than that of a civilian?” Uh, yes. Because I’m not an idiot. “Is there any reason you would be unable to judge this case impartially?” Yes, because there’s no such thing as impartiality. I was amazed to be the only person raising my hand.

Anyway, it’s over, and unlike the last two, three, however many weeks it’s been, the furthest I’m traveling this weekend is maybe to Boston, which is about an hour, so I’m stoked for what I hope will be some mental resource-gathering and getting my head together.

Monday, look out for a track premiere from Thermic Boogie. Also next week, reviews of WitchcraftMatus and hopefully Terraplane. I gotta look at my notes when I get back to my once-again-functioning laptop that The Patient Mrs. had repaired this afternoon while I was at work, but there’s probably more I can’t think of, in addition to the news, on which I’m also already and perpetually behind. Hey, I put up 50 reviews this week. I’m doing the best I can.

As I know we all are. Please, have a great and tremendous and not-at-all-injurious weekend, and please, check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio


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Friday Full-Length: Iron Man, Black Night

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Iron Man, Black Night (1993)

[Please note: Shadow Kingdom reissued Black Night in 2009 and the album is available on Bandcamp here.]

If you ever wanted a primer or a summary of the entire Maryland doom scene distilled into one record, it might be Iron Man‘s 1993 debut, Black Night (reissue review here). I say that because even more than Pentagram‘s Relentless or The Obsessed‘s self-titled — both landmarks, make no mistake — Black Night has remained an underground phenomenon, and while its tracks and particularly the riffs of founding guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III are on par with any of the post-Sabbath downer metal that region has produced and at this point has influenced a lot of it, to a broader worldwide audience, Iron Man continue to be a relatively obscure act. Less so now than perhaps ever following the 2013 release of their latest album, South of the Earth (review here), on Rise Above, but still. Riffers don’t come much more underrated than Morris.

Whether that’s due to issues of race or if it was a lack of promotion at the time, I don’t know, but Black Night is all the more exemplary for the whole of Maryland doom for being undervalued. It is unremittingly straightforward, whether its the hook of its title-track or the basic frustration at root in the social commentary of “A Child’s Future,” and its roots are directly traced to Black Sabbath and the heart of what doom metal was taking from them and melding to the gallop of the NWOBHM at the time. Black Night, in being issued via the German imprint Hellhound, was one of a swath of records from the Doom Capitol area that saw release at what was apparently just the right time to make a lasting impact, and one could easily look at it as well as concurrent offerings from UnorthodoxInternal VoidThe ObsessedRevelation and Wretched as the blueprints for what Maryland doom has become.

As with any scene, the players involved are pivotal. Morris has remained in Iron Man, and vocalist Rob Levey founded and ran the Stoner Hands of Doom festival series, while drummer Ron Kalimon split his time with Unorthodox. Bassist Larry Brown stuck around to play on Iron Man‘s 1994 follow-up, The Passage (reissue review here), and had played in Force with Morris as well, but parted ways with the band after that, and Iron Man would go on to become a hub for players and vocalists in the tradition of Pentagram, though by no means that extreme in turnover.

Hoping for a new Iron Man release in 2016, but I haven’t heard any solid news in that regard. Now fronted by “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun with Louis Strachan on bass and Jason “Mot” Waldmann on drums, the band began playing new material live as of this summer. Hope you enjoy.

Well, The Patient Mrs. is in Portland, Oregon, for a conference until Sunday, and you know what that means: Bachelor weekend! My plans? Make chicken soup, vacuum, and if there’s time, log the recent mail in the Excel file where I keep track of everything (physical; I’m sorry, but there’s no keeping up with Bandcamp links) that comes in for review. That last item might be ambitious, but either way, it’s gonna be a fucking rager. Look out.

Next week: Radio Adds! Yes. Radio Adds. It’s going to happen. No joke, I have well over 100 albums sitting in a folder on my desktop waiting to go on the server, and next week, it’s happening. It’s been since June, and it’s getting ridiculous, so the time has come. I’ll set it all up Sunday. Also Monday I’ll be streaming the new EP from Return from the Grave that Argonauta Records is putting out, and maybe Tuesday I might (fingers crossed) have a Death Hawks track premiere. I’m loving that album. Svart does not screw around.

Speaking of streams, if you didn’t listen to it yet, that Kristian Harting album is very much worth your time. Stream it here.

If you’re the celebrating-Halloween type, be safe. Whatever your plans might be — bet they don’t have you nearly as excited as the prospect of chicken soup has me — I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Venomous Maximus, Firewalker: Fearful Symmetry

Posted in Reviews on August 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

venomous maximus firewalker

Natives of Houston, Texas’ well-populated heavy underground, the dual-guitar four-piece Venomous Maximus distinguished themselves early into their run with their first two EPs, 2010’s Give up the Witch and 2011’s The Mission (review here). Their subsequent debut full-length, 2012’s Beg upon the Light (review here), built upon the momentum they’d gleaned through touring and the response to their shorter offerings, earning a release through Napalm Records — their riotous live show made them an easy sell — and it seemed at the time like the band would issue their next album through that label as well. A quick follow-up was expected after the roll they got on between their EPs and debut LP, but it’s three years later that Firewalker, their sophomore outing, arrives, and it does so through Shadow Kingdom Records.

There has to be some question as to whether that three-year span cost Venomous Maximus in terms of the momentum they had coming out of Beg upon the Light, though they’d hardly been inactive in that time between touring, releasing videos, writing and so on, but to listen to the 10 tracks/46 minutes of Firewalker itself makes it clear the band — guitarist/vocalist Gregg Higgins, guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt — haven’t missed a step in terms of their approach. Songs like “Dark Waves,” “Angel Heart” and “Fire in the Night” maintain the blend of classic metal precision and darker heavy rock atmospherics, bordering on doom but never quite crossing over, that the first album proffered, and build upon those achievements while further establishing Venomous Maximus‘ sound as distinct from the various influences of which it is constructed.

One could rattle off a list of those influences and come up with names as aesthetically widespread as Celtic FrostMötley Crüe, Uncle Acid and Samhain, but no single outfit or even a grouping of them really comes close to giving Venomous Maximus their due when it comes to the individualized stock they’ve boiled down from those component elements, taking a horror-minded vibe from here and a theatrical sense of drama from there and turning it into the post-“Intro” chug of “White Rose,” which gets the darkened bikerisms of Firewalker moving at a decent clip, setting the tone for what follows in natural sound and a persistent quality of songwriting that will be familiar to anyone who encountered Beg upon the Light.

venomous maximus

They are identifiable, and more so than one might expect for an outfit even on their second record, with Higgins‘ vocals shifting from the proclamations of “White Rose” and “Through the Black” to grittier, more punkish fare by the time the memorable “October 14th” rolls around to follow “Dark Waves” at the end of what’s clearly intended to be side A, Venomous Maximus making no secret of the album’s structure by means of dual intros — “Intro” for the first half, “Firewalker Theme” for the second — and a forward progression that pushes each half of the outing toward its most resonant hook at the end, whether that’s “October 14th” or the finale of the album as a whole, “Take on the Grave.” That’s of course not to take anything away from the surrounding cuts, as the entirety of Firewalker belts out quality craftsmanship that feeds into a full-length flow across its two sides, just to say that Venomous Maximus have a clarity underlying the curling smoke of their malevolence and that all the thrust the album brings to bear leads it to a worthy destination.

Also not to be understated is the band’s attention to detail. Whether showing itself through the tape hiss that seems to pervade the record as a whole to more specific factors like the layered-in acoustics for the second half of “Fire in the Night,” the mad scientist yowl that marks the launch point for “My Machine,”  strange, almost taunting vocals on “Take on the Grave” or the fuzzer tone of “Dark Waves” that sits as well with that song’s ’70s swing as the layered shouts of “Angel Heart”‘s midsection do with its “Looks that Kill”-style riffing. Across the board, Venomous Maximus deliver a cohesiveness of concept and performance that seems in its complexity to justify the three years it took for Firewalker to surface, at the same time completely avoiding any kind of self-congratulatory indulgence and keeping their focus where it belongs: on kicking ass.

As “Take on the Grave” winds itself down and loses the drums, bass and vocals to the ether, the guitar remains to set a final moment of ambience in motion, giving Firewalker an appropriately cinematic conclusion. At the same time, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if — whenever it might surface — Venomous Maximus‘ next record didn’t start off with a similar progression to pick up right where they left off. That’s calling a shot in the dark, maybe, but something about that last minute or so feels just as much like a beginning as an ending, and time will of course tell if it winds up being precisely that. Either way, Venomous Maximus‘ second album should more than thrill anyone who got on board with the first, and it’s bound to turn plenty of new heads in their direction as well, as it grabs and holds attention with likewise ease and poise. They’d probably object to the album being called classy, but it is anyway.

Venomous Maximus, Firewalker (2015)

Venomous Maximus on Thee Facebooks

Venomous Maximus on Twitter

Venomous Maximus on Bandcamp

Shadow Kingdom Records

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