Hour of 13 – 333
Posted by Terrible Certainty Zine
Things got weird there for a minute with Hour of 13. They came out of the gate great guns, with two nearly universally acclaimed albums in their self-titled debut in ‘07 and 2010’s The Ritualist, which won them a move to Earache. But then frontman Philip Swanson split with the other half of Hour of 13, multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis, and Davis totally retooled things with a full five-piece band. But not long afterward Swanson returned, only to leave once more, with Ben Hogg of the excellent Beaten Back to Pure serving as a replacement for five minutes before Phil returned yet again. For how long is anyone’s guess, but at least long enough for us to get 333, and we’re better for it.
Truthfully, despite how much I dug the first two Hour of 13 albums I left 333 on my desk for a while before finally getting to it. Frontman Philip Swanson is excellent at what he does. Problem is, he sorta just does one thing. And after spending lots of time with his work in Hour of 13, Seamount, and Briton Rites, frankly, Swanson’s effectiveness was beginning to suffer from overexposure. With 333 (part time evil?) everything old is new once again. Swanson is in top form, but the real difference maker here is the onslaught of fantastic classic metal riffs from Chad Davis, who once again continues to handle all the instrumental duties.
Hour of 13 have always had a knack for channeling and locking in on vintage doom and heavy metal in a thoroughly convincing and timeless manner. They’re certainly traditional minded, although they don’t come off as a retro-act, but neither do they sound the least bit contemporary. On top of their talents, there’s a perceived authenticity that’s helped to win the band serious accolades from journalists and listeners alike. 333 is chock full of full-blooded, doom-drenched, occult obsessed heavy metal. It’s a bit more uptempo than The Ritualist, and a stronger album overall. Opener “Deny the Cross” is among Hour of 13’s best work and a good indication of the band’s intentions this time out. It begins with that familiar plodding gait before launching into a tempo shifting riff-fest. The production places Swanson just a touch lower in the mix. He’s still plenty loud and sounds great, but this brings a slightly different balance.
Hour of 13 covered Samhain’s “To Walk the Night” back in 2010, and it’s ironic 333’s that “Spiral Vacuum” follows “Rite of Samhain,” in that the former vaguely recalls Danzig’s Samhain in its shimmery clean-picked guitar lines and stabbing, punkish rhythms. It’s definitely the “one of these things is not like the others” song in this riff-driven collection, but it works quite well as the exception that proves the rule.
Despite the early hype surrounding Hour of 13, 333 seems to be flying a bit under the radar. That’s a shame, because it definitely has all you’d expect from these guys, plus a bit you didn’t. Let’s hope the Davis/Swanson partnership lasts. (8/10)
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Posted on August 22, 2012, in Review and tagged Briton Rites, Doom, Earache, Hour of 13, Metal, Metal Album Reviews, Seamount, Terrible Certainty, Traditional. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.