Hour Of 13 – The Ritualist

Hour Of 13 – ‘The Ritualist’2011 LP, Earache Records

Hour Of 13 - The RitualistI love the Ozzy-fronted Black Sabbath of yore but unlike some I am not willing to close my eyes and my ears and pretend that every time I hear a doom riddled Heavy Metal number that it is the return of the fearsome foursome from cloudy ole England being resurrected.

No. It is 2011 and just like Pink Floyd who helped define the term Progressive Rock the successive decades following didn’t have every band with a little ‘progress’ in it being called another Pink Floyd for the sake of those now called Floydians; I do believe that the same sense should be applied to Black Sabbath. Maybe I am asking too much from the crazy Heavy Metal audience who, sad to say, sometimes seem a little deaf to the music and bigger on the image.

I remember having the displeasure to hear Abigail, a Black Metal band from Japan, who produced a shrieking screamy heavy-heavy-heavy mess and yet dressed it up all nice in the CD package and managed to get more than a few suckers to part with their cash and buy their stinking disc.

Just because it is a Heavy Metal band’s CD in my hands it doesn’t mean I’m gonna get stupid and yell ‘f*ckin’ A man’ or some other dumb thing like turn to my partner and ask for a high six.

And while on the topic of Metal stupid stuff I can tell you that a high six is when you raise your two arms over your head and have your six fingers high five it with the other person’s six fingers.

Has anyone attended a Manowar concert lately?

I want you to recall the arms over the head joined while the band feeds back endlessly.

Anybody want a Spinal Tap?

Hour Of 13 debuted the new version of ‘The Ritualist‘ first in Europe on January 24th, 2011 and then on February 8, 2011 on Earache Records in America.

This re-release of ‘The Ritualist‘ first came out on the small record label Northern Silence and has now been graced with an update and a remastering. For those of you not in the know this means that in a nutshell that the album hopefully sounds and has been presented a whole lot better.

I don’t think too many of you have heard the debut Hour Of 13 but it sure has made for a helluva buzz in the Metal Underground that Death Scream is proud to delve into.

I think that the best thing to really get collectors’ blood pumping is to bring up the vinyl LP version of the re-release of ‘The Ritualist‘ which has come with a free 7″inch vinyl record thrown into the bargain.

This 7″inch features Side A’s ‘Grim Reality‘- 2006 rehearsal track & Side B’s ‘Call To Satan‘, Live in Dublin 12-09-2010. ‘Grim Reality‘, by inclusion in this package in it’s 2006 format serves as a grim tribute to the man who once accompanied band nuclei Chad Davis and Phil Swanson on bass guitar. A man best referred to as Thomas, who has since passed on.

I would like to take a pause in this record review to point out a sad fact. In this world the dead are usually soon forgotten.

By soon I mean within mere months of someone’s death. They are usually grieved for posthumously by only a few very close relatives and maybe a handful of friends, if the luck of the dead one is even that good.

Heavy Metal offers a shot at immortality in the way of it’s circle of appreciation’s ethereal handshake. Kudos to the boys of Hour Of 13 for helping us to help them remember their fallen comrade in such a touching manner. It is, at the very least, a touch of class commemorating the band’s own in a post-darkest hour that effected the band enough to do this tribute.

Hour Of 13 have become known to me only lately and really deserve to be signed up. Earache have the mighty Cauldron from Canada and as such have won a great deal of respect from this here writer.

Hour Of 13 are essentially a Heavy Metal band who go about constructing/delivering the goods in a refreshingly traditional manner, which is something I said about Relapse Records labelmates Cauldron earlier this year.

Hour Of 13 know what a hook is come chorus time in many of their songs. Fans Of those magical first few albums by Saint Vitus will treasure these guys’ first two albums, also.

The choruses of many of the songs on offer here stick in your head like glue.

There was a time when pessimism was not an integral part of Heavy Metal. Actually it was scorned upon. Who wanted to listen to some stoner having a bad trip ranting on and on about the rain-filled clouds?

Dark Metal had it’s heyday in the woe begotten tail end of the last decade of the last century propelled along by the exposure to the sun of Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost.

Somehow it became cool to be bereft of happiness and swallowed up by even the most vague forms of demonry.

911, the dreadful event that befell America on September 11th, 2001 would serve as the wake up call for all the zombies and nightcrawlers of the Earth to decide what they wanted to be: Good or evil?

A turning point for humanity had been reached. Nobody was playin’ anymore. The real thing had happened and blasting Metal was nothing but something that would reverberate on the decade of 2000s youngsters’ video game consoles; and these kids could aim and hear the explosions and pitiful cries and shrieks of the soon to be dead without having to listen to one note of a hippie’s guitar.

I think it is important to put some perspective into better understanding what charges up the shouting hordes of the marketplace these days.

Hour Of 13 are, believe it or not, affecting change with what merely looks and reads like some faceless and cheesey run of the mill Black Metal release.

But no.

It is not.

Hour Of 13 are very throwback and as such quite enjoyable.

North Carolina may not seem to be the busy hotbed that the east and west coasts of America are.

Remember that this year when we look back on that event of ten years ago all humanity is bound to smell the stench of hate that wasn’t quelled a decade ago.

America is still at war in Afghanistan fighting those who will die for Allah whoever the hell he is.

And who know, maybe with Death Scream’s help, Hour Of 13 may just single-handedly revive the spirit that defined so earnestly early Black Sabbath, and, who let’s face it, that the Sabs were not half as dreary as they have been made out to be.

I know as I was around to have experienced Black Sabbath in concert and the tour for the ‘Never Say Die‘ LP coming to Madison Square Garden in the very late 1970s was an event that I will never forget.

Hour Of 13 know how to pen a song, and come chorus time they know how to rev it up and bring the noise to every headbanger in earshot.

Onto the music of the CD in question. ‘Naked Star‘ sports one of the most most fracturing endings of a song to ever take place in Heavy Metal history.

The further one gets in to this record the better it gets. And that feat alone is quite exhilerating.

So the uphill climb that is ‘The Ritualist‘ can be especially breathtaking the first go round.

All this stuff about being like Black Sabbath has dealt me a dose of skepticism that I am glad to say has been wiped away after three consecutive listens to this album.

I myself absolutely adore Black Sabbath and actually fashioned my guitarmanship upon the playing of one Tony Iommi.

And though this may the assigned Doom Metal category for Hour Of 13, I don’t hear Black Sabbath when I hear Hour Of 13.

What I do hear is Electric Wizard, Reverend Bizaare and Trouble rather than Ozzy’s old crew.

I am getting worked up and I want to know; what the f*ck does this toetagging crap matter anyway when you have ‘Demons All Around Me‘ and ‘Soldiers Of Satan‘ to peel your skin off?

Both these aforementioned numbers appear in the latter half of Hour Of 13‘s finest hour so far in the shape of ‘The Ritualist‘ and in sum total account for approximately 1/4 hour of stellar Heavy Metal.

Let’s face it: almost nobody knows that this album slipped out the first time.

I am starting to realize, in this day and age of the Internet, that when the reviewer uses that knee jerking reaction to say that Black Sabbath worship is going on and so much so that it is in the first degree as concerns the latest Doom Metal band that such and such inexperienced writer/reviewer/critic/press kit writer/whoever guy/gal is blabbing about that it is he/she that is to be faulted.

As for myself, I know my Heavy Metal inside out. Decade in and decade out. I ain’t going to give a rotten and eggheaded type of review in which I try to point out that a band’s recording has Black Sabbath written all over it. So then, you may ask, why do you mention Black Sabbath so much. And the answer to that is that I use the band Black Sabbath to adjucate a term and that I do it authoritatively and descriptively in a very conscientious and considered manner, I hope,

The title track, ‘The Ritualist‘, however is something to talk about albeit not for any one-dimensional Black Sabbath related reason. ‘The Ritualist‘ stands completely on it’s own two-hooved doom feet, blessed by a high energy spark and sounding rather upbeat.

I do hope that this review gains Hour Of 13 some of the respect and adulation that they deserve for making two really cool studio albums. I should add that I know nothing of what type of proposition this band make in the live in concert setting, if any.

13 may be an unlucky number but I don’t believe in luck, only chance, as my faith wisely assures me yet I still can’t get into the opening track on ‘The Ritualist‘ that is called ‘The Gathering‘.

It is a little funny how I remember the band named The Gathering from the Netherlands quite fondly during this clear lucid moment in which I write record reviews.

That particular band, The Gathering, played all dark, heavy, and atmospheric.

It had been awhile since that band and their music popped into my busy thinking cap. But Death Metal is far away from the style of Hour Of 13.

And so is Black Metal and so is Dark Metal. The only thing they had in common with The Gathering is the strictly non-Gothic charm that both bands share in a Heavy Metal world very content on howling at the moon and calling it cool.

Do you know what? Manilla Road comes to mind most flagrantly as regards Hour Of 13‘s lead vocals department.

The feel of the overall sound of ‘The Ritualist‘ though is more akin to the equally spirited Doom Metal outfit, also from America, Iron Man.

For those who get heavily into Witchfinder General, who boast the gonadal sack busting ‘Death Penalty‘ LP from 1982, Hour Of 13 is also sure to thrill.

As you can read and see I believe Hour Of 13 to have a lot in common with many a Doom Metal titan, across the board. I’m not quite sure exactly what you should be getting out of all these comparisons. Maybe it is simply because Hour Of 13 are really that special.

When I first heard H.o’13, (as some say the band’s name, on the Heavy Metal station of the cable TV network here in New York) I felt it was high time that somebody should do a review of their latest studio venture.

Hour Of 13‘s hour of power is ‘The Ritualist‘ LP, for sure.

I would also like to bend all your minds a little by speaking this truth: If you have heard Witchfinder General‘s ‘Death Penalty‘ too many times like I have then you’ll definitely devour this fresh slice of Doomy Heavy Metal.

Just don’t say Black Sabbath; you’ll just sound like a newbie.

– Rich Castle

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