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Banishing Darkness Great And Grey - 82%

CHAIRTHROWER, September 10th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

Blazing within Sonoma wine Count(r)y is the quirky and melodic entity known as Coffin Hunters, which, succeeding a primary, four-track EP from '17 titled Coffin Lords - a stronger and more resounding band moniker, no-how - turned around with its full-length debut, The Fire King, digitally and independently released last month. By St. George, David AND The Beast, this is precisely the type of jauntily engaging trad metal "rock-er" I've morbid adulation for, imbued as it is with poignantly eclectic rhythm arrangements, funambulator-y guitar licks a la Angel Sword or early Pentagram, vainglorious, wander-lusting bass and irredeemably snappy, offbeat drumming, the lot of it punctuated by enigmatic and rugose, sinewy solos. As bonus, the static lot of it (pole) vaults hither and yon thanks to an arcane front man blessed with an oddly compelling false nasal twine akin to Hellfire's Jake Nunn, or perhaps Kaine's Rage Sadler, for want of a united/kingly i.e. British example.

enigmatically woven, sinewy solos

To wit, "Hell Sleeps In Paradise" rakishly gambols down the lane way with a vertigo-inducing array of mnemonic "Dust-meets-Flight-meets-Warpig" old school revelry. Granted, the compact, brittle production slightly tarnishes Jorge Guzman's durable drumming performance, as the lower percussion (i.e. bass/snare drum) relentlessly succumbs to the ole creepy and worn "organ-grinder's monkey cymbal crash", you dig? In general, bass is murkily defined, but the leads, man! They're a whole other story: archaic and unbridled, in terms of unorthodox syntax as well as phrasing...this goes a long way, intrigue and novelty-wise, so to creak. (Fulfilling the role of lone guitarist for these Californian crypt seekers, Eric H. duly pulls his [dead] weight!)

Venturing further into Hades' tar pit - as suggested by the striking cover art's orange, yellow and (brick) brown-toned hues - is "The Fire King" proper, a seven-minute, battle-strewn epic comprised of frenetic and raw albeit melodiously expunged hooks at every (beau) jangling turn/burn. The swarthy-as-frig, note per note, wizened lead break is highly reminiscent, among numerous other vintage worthies, of Sweden's shaggy and eccentric doom band by the prosaic name of Witchcraft, not to mention an iconic as well as massively pentatonic barn-burner from the distant past, Reverend Tony McPhee's Groundhogs...think 1970's Thank Christ For The Bomb or '76's Black Diamond. (Hence, the inherent retro-ness.)

Myself, I'm privy to "Wasteland", with its up-beat, pop-y splendor and Sean Rivera's portentously evocative wailing cries, in addition to clinking, almost chime-y and extra-sensory, soloing while anticipating the pump-action celerity and rapid-fire shredding/fulsome drumming charge amidst "At The Wall", the later verses of which bring to mind despondently mesmeric 90s/00s fare such as Helmet and/or Radiohead. Actually, this last's furnace is stoked in a diabolically picked, "neo-shredder-of-the-new-millennium manner", whilst Brian Crites's bumptious bass carves a pronounced - and un-muzzled - swath at the behest of "Ancient Abyss". Again, Rivera's idiomatically youthful and free delivery smacks hard of San Francisco's Hell Fire, but with less of a caustic or sharpened edge. His affably loose n' disjointed vocal style, combined with the kooky interludes permeating "In Blue" and "Path To Ruin", merrily retrieve lost glimpses of numinous stoner "blues" acts Natas and Norrsken, if memory serves; particularly, the latter's fetching reprise of Blue Cheer's "Pilot", off of 1999's Blue Explosion tribute compilation.

With eight lingering ringers ranging between said ingress' four minutes and closer "Banishment"'s eight-and-a-half, Cali's Coffin Hunters' - I'd an impulse to write "Punters" before checking myself - The Fire King makes remarkable use of its 70s styled teeter and momentum. In short, the extensive track lengths constitute more of a dead-on boon than long-winded or overly wound hindrance. Admittedly, a total running time abridged to roughly forty-five minutes behooves the band's singular disposition, as, aside from an archetypal, knurled solo, as well as noodling back-up bass line over a choppy and (Black) Sabbathian "Fairies Wear Boots" emulating staccato pattern, "Banishment" drags on and on, albeit in an extra-curricular vein worthy of any self-respecting or quintessential bonus cut. So, grip your (t)rusty crowbar and start pryin'!