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There are some things I just don’t understand. I cannot for the life of me understand why there aren’t more bands out there playing vintage Sabbath-influenced metal, devoid of stoner or other similar influences. C’mon, slow to mid-paced meaty RIFFS, nice bass lines, and lyrics of doom and gloom…what’s not to love? Fortunately, some bands, such as Briton Rites, continue on with the always awesome style of vintage British Metal. Briton Rites is the new band of Cauldron Born main man Howie Bentley, who had been out of the music scene for several years. Briton Rites doesn’t really sound much like Cauldron Born, but fans of Bentley’s previous band will be thrilled to know that his great, fantasy-fueled lyrics are still present.
Another thing I don’t understand is how this album, For Mircalla, was released in 2010. I mean seriously, this is one of those albums that should have been made in the early ‘80s, slowly grew a fanatic cult following, and then grew in status years later to the point of being hailed as a classic. The bleak cover art does not look like it belongs in this decade. Hell, nothing about this album is trendy or current at all, which is awesome. No bullshit doom metal is what For Mircalla is all about. Fans of Black Sabbath and occult lyrics NEED to buy this album. If you ever wished Sabbath would have really dug into some occult lyrics around the time of Master of Reality or Vol. 4, then you owe it to yourself to get this.
There are 7 songs on this album, with 3 of them stretching past the 10 minute mark. With songs about vampires, exorcisms, demon conjuring, and a certain severed hand, For Mircalla evokes a profound gothic atmosphere. Listening to this album is like watching old cult horror movies and enjoying yourself immensely as you do. Everything is in place, be it lyrics, slow and hopeless (yet endlessly empowered) riffs, an authentically haunting atmosphere, or superb musicianship.
The opener “Carmilla” is probably easiest song to digest on the album, and it is certainly one of the catchiest. Bentley takes center stage on this album with humongous riffs as well as soaring leads. The guitar tone is wonderfully fuzzy, which unfortunately doesn’t reach my ears much anymore, and the bass (also played by Bentley) is intricate and tasty. The drums are manned by Vainglory guitarist Corbin King, whose studio was used for the production of this record. Phil Swanson (of Hour of 13 fame and a ton of other bands) provides solid, clear vocals that occasionally sound truly sad. For example, listen to him in “Carmilla” when he sings “The nightmares came again, poor Laura.” When he sings “Laura,” it sounds so hauntingly sad that I look forward to it when the song kicks on.
Every song is pretty much a highlight, with “A Meeting in the Woods” being a devil-worshipping favorite, as well as “The Right Hand of Doom,” which was inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane short story of the same name. It took “Vampire Hunter, 1600” a while to grow on me, but it’s a great song with nice bass work and a doomy-as-hell outro, and those leads, lord have mercy those leads. The albums closer, “Karnstein Castle,” features Bentley on vocals, who possesses a deep style that fits the song amazingly well. I think it would have been cool if Bentley and Swanson had traded off vocals on a song or two, because I like them both. But, then again, that may get in the way of the story each song is trying to tell. What the hell do I know?
For Mircalla is a breathtakingly strong debut from an already formidable band in the world of doom metal. Highly, highly, recommended. One of the best albums of 2010 so far.