Hour of 13

Hour of 13

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Tempting as it is to label Hour of 13's eponymous debut a doom album without even a second glance, fact is it's actually a pure heavy metal album in the genre's most fundamental, unadulterated definition, formulated in the early '70s by Black Sabbath. And even though this essentially rules out the possibility of true musical innovation, Hour of 13's sheer mastery of the style's every last aesthetic nook and cranny -- from the devilishly occult lyrics and bare-bones production to the simultaneously simple yet towering power chords from which everything derives -- easily transcends mere imitation, and ultimately reminds us that all subsequent metallic subgenres are ultimately dilutions, for better or worse, of the original, flawless monolith. The proof is in the riffing, as they say, thanks to the improbably fresh-sounding sequences conjured by lead visionary Chad Davis, who handles all instruments (save for the odd solo played by album engineer Corey Leonard) on sinister offerings like "Call to Satan," "Submissive to Evil," "Hex Harm," and "Missing Girl." Yes, ultra-specialized heavy metal historians will of course recognize occasional scattered touchstones like Pentagram ("Endurement to the Heirs of Shame"), Pagan Altar ("Grim Reality"), and even Budgie ("Allowance of Sin"); but, if not for vocalist Phil Swanson's warbling delivery and recurring Satanic invocations (which invariably smack of Ozzy Osbourne, more often than not), even Sabbath's irrefutable influence affects the template more so than the duo's songwriting imagination. And for those incapable of buying that last sales pitch -- check out the exceptionally forceful opening riff of "The Correlation," which hasn't an ounce of doom about it as it chugs along to the snappier tempos of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, or even -- dare we say it -- American '80s metal! The point being that Hour of 13 are anything but a surprise-free nostalgia act, but rather proud carriers of heavy metal's timeless flame, from the past into the distant future.

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