Saturday, 19 October 2013

Vestal Claret - Bloodbath (2013) | 70%

Phil Swanson is overrated

I feel it's necessary to start this review with a rant. No, I do not like Phil Swanson. He's not atrocious or anything but he really gets on my nerves. I don't really understand why he's in so many projects and I'm glad he left Atlantean Kodex because Markus Becker is so much better. All the bands he or was part of are good because of their riffs (Briton Rites, Upwards of Endtime, Hour of 13 or Seamount). Vestal Claret while not as good as most of these bands is no exception to that rule. He has this original yet grating delivery which works well on a forty minutes album like Ho13's debut. His nasally voice just doesn't please me enough but I reckon he has a good range. I think the main offender is that he's simply everywhere in the heavy/doom world.

Vestal Claret (great name!) is some sort of traditional heavy metal with doom elements but not enough to justify a place in the doom universe. The atmosphere and approach are quite occult as demonstrated by the lyrical themes, well written with hints of old English. Swanson is still a pretty good lyricist even if some of the songs are hit and miss here (the weird “Missing Girl”). The album starts with perhaps its best song with the nine minutes “Hex of Harm” and it stays good for the whole duration, it's just way too long for its own sake. The days of forty minutes heavy metal is not yet over and while it was a often a  format compromise, it was usually the right amount of music. “Bloodbath” with its twelve songs and its seventy minutes length is just too much to handle especially since most songs are similar and the band doesn't include progressive or atmospheric elements.

Simon Tuozzoli is handling the guitars here and while he's a good composer, he's definitely not Howie Bentley (Briton Rites, Cauldron Born) or even Chad Davis (Ho13). The riffs are pretty good but after four or five songs, I'm beginning to be bored even though the quality of the songwriting isn't quite different. Vestal Claret's sound goes to slow traditional metal to mid-paced/semi-fast tracks and even though, it seems to be varied on paper, I don't think it works that way. It feels united but blurred and samey. The solos are well done, well produced such as the one in “Blood Oath” and it's enjoyable but for some reasons except the vocals that I already discussed, I can't enjoy the album as much as I would like to, it's just flat. 

While nothing is intrinsically wrong with the music, it's mundane and it's nothing you haven't heard before like most of Swanson's projects but this one is even more middle of the road. If you enjoy Swanson, sure, well check it out. I mean, I admire his beard but his voice, not so much.

Thanks to Rafal from Nine Records for the CD

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