By Gruesome Greg
A neat little split out on Indian label Roadcrew Records between countrymen Albatross and Vestal Claret, one of Phil Swanson’s many projects. The locals are up first with a fistful of tunes, beginning with an eerie intro that showcases some high-pitched vocals.
From there, we’re taken to “Uncle Sunny at the Tavern,” a slightly speedy number which sorta sounds like King Diamond solo, due in part to the otherworldly high notes the singer hits in the chorus. There is a pretty solid slower section that follows shortly afterwards, mind you. Actually, once this song slows down, it gets pretty good, though they throw in a couple more time changes just for good measure.
“Kissing Flies” has a bit of a bizarre intro before it gets down to business with some hard-hitting riffs. The vocals don’t seem to soar quite high enough over the massive drums in the beginning, though the riffage is pretty decent, maintaining that eerie mood. Things seem to take a bit of a Mr. Bungle/Faith No More detour for a bit before the solo comes in. This is the longest of the band’s contributions, at just a shade over 10 minutes, but there are enough different things going on here to keep the listener involved, a mish-mash of melodic death and doomy trad metal. Those vocals are a bit of an acquired taste, though. The dude ranges from Messiah Marcolin to black metal to ball-busting high screams—but hey, at least there’s no Cookie Monster in the equation. Oh wait, I spoke too soon…
“From Ashes Comes Life” also starts out on a bit of a strange note, the stomping drums and spoken word eventually giving way to a slithering beast of a riff that promptly descends into doom territory. There are definitely some shades of Candlemass on this track, which is never a bad thing—though the over-the-top vocals sometimes make it sound like Messiah is singing a duet with Udo Dirkschneider.
After their predecessors slowed things down sufficiently, Vestal Claret comes in with “Black Priest,” a lone 17+ minute epic that showcases the voice of Swanson with a sparsely populated verse, little more than a drumbeat and a slow, clean guitar riff. Things build up a little bit before some distorted doom riffage dives in and takes centre stage for the chorus. The guitar solo is also done in a very clean, melodic tone, furthering the contrast between soft verse and heavy chorus. Around the halfway mark, an ever-increasing chug indicates a change of tempo, as things gallop into mid-paced territory. An old school “Oh-Oh-Oh” section certainly sounds right at home here. After another guitar solo, this song slows down again, and returns to the original verse structure, ending on a fade-out of the earlier chorus.
Alas, there’s never a dull moment here—on either side of the ledger.