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Originally published at http://suite101.com
Hank 3 may be better known for his country music and for being the grandson of that one guy, but he’s also been firmly established in the punk and heavy metal scenes for years. He’s performed bass and drum duties for every other post-Pantera project that Phil Anselmo’s come up and even has his own crossover band in the form of Assjack. Now on the same day as his newest country double album and a messy release that’s been declared to be the founder of “cattlecore,” Hank has decided to also unleash an old school doom metal record with himself handling all of the instrumentation. The resulting effort is one that is completely new for him but really shouldn’t be too unexpected.
In terms of musical style, this album is firmly established in a slightly fuzzy variation of the traditional doom mold, taking clear cues from old favorites like Sleep, Electric Wizard, classic Melvins, and Cathedral’s earlier releases. Fortunately, the usage of this style never cheapens the project’s feel as Hank shows some unique tricks while keeping an eye for authenticity. The first thing that stands out about the album is the production. While these songs were written and produced during the time period in Hank’s home studio as the other albums from this year, the production style on this effort is much more distant and muffled in comparison. Hell, it’s pretty hazy by doom standards though it does give things a very live feel.
Another factor that seems to separate this from typical doom bands is that there seems to be less of an emphasis on the riffs and guitar presence than usual. While the guitars do have a slight crunch to them and there are some great riffs scattered throughout, one can only wonder how much stronger this would’ve sounded if the guitars were more prominent in the project’s mix. Fortunately, the rhythm section manages to stay pretty solid and proves once more that Hank is able to handle just about everything on here quite smoothly. The drums stand out a bit more and go between supporting the drones and providing some strong blasting on certain songs.
But what really makes this project stand out is the vocal delivery. Seeing as how the nasally sneer on Hank’s country material probably wouldn’t fit this type of sound (yet), he instead goes for an effect that keeps his higher pitch intact but emphasizes the vibrato in his voice and throws in a few growls for good measure. This has been a controversial move from what I’ve observed. It does have a habit of making songs such as “Bend” and “Get Str8” a little harder to listen to, but it was an interesting decision that helps make this project more memorable. It also makes him sound similar to the late Layne Staley, an influence that was no doubt intentional, as the release has been dedicated to his memory.
Seeing as how this album is clearly meant to be the bastard child of Sleep’s Holy Mountain and Forest of Equilibrium, it’s only natural for almost every song featured to run at a snail’s pace. While there is a slight risk of the lesser songs running together, several tracks manage to stand out in some way and the album really picks up as it moves more towards the second half. “Livin’ Beyond Doom” is probably the most memorable tune on here thanks to its powerful riffs, brief but effective sample usage, incorporation of organs at certain points, and a growled closing segment that brings to mind Melvins’ “Hag Me.”
Fortunately, there are also a few other songs that break away from the sluggish mold. “Make A Fall” is the first track to truly bring in riffs that compete with the vocals for supremacy, “Demon’s Mark” is one of the rare hook driven songs on here with an upbeat Sabbath-styled riff and a simple but memorable chorus, and “Aman” is another groovy track in the vein of “Night Goat.”
The lyrics on here are also worth noting though the words are almost never meant to be as important in metal as they are in country. So instead of the standard outlaw fare, Hank seems to stretch out a bit here and goes for depression, the occult, conspiracy theories, and all the other stuff that must make Matt Pike proud. It’s not quite as gripping but still makes one wonder how long it'll be before he starts writing country songs about reptilians...
At this point, it’s a little hard to tell if this is meant to be a one-off experiment or the start of another one of Hank’s side bands. Hopefully it turns out to be the latter case as there is a great deal of potential here and it’d be great to hear how tracks like these would sound with a full band at hand. There are simultaneously some terrific songs and some room for future improvements, but this is a good release to get for established doom metal fans. Others are encouraged to give some of the classic bands listed above a listen before making their way here but it probably wouldn’t hurt to give this a try at some point.
“I Feel Sacrificed”
“Make A Fall”
“Livin’ Beyond Doom”