"...autumn's cold brings the pagan dead who seek the warmth of the Samhain fire!"
HOUR OF 13
The Rites of Samhain
I have no idea why it took me so long to discover Phil Swanson's classy metal pipes but I'm admittedly a recent convert to his mournful satanic hymns and, to make up for lost time, I officially declare 2010 the "Year of 13". I was nearly buried this year in a small avalanche of tunes bearing his distinctive mark in the form of no less than three (count 'em!) Hour of 13 releases as well as the killer Vestal Claret and Night Bitch EP's (both on cult cassette-only label NoVisible Scars). I'm not sure why this dude has so many bands 'cause to my untrained ear most of this stuff sounds remarkably similar and his lyrics never stray too far from the themes of occult mind control and sexy human sacrifice that would've had the P.M.R.C. launching an inquisition back in the 80's. The Ritualist is a damn fine release and I've banged my head in slow motion to its mysterious laments many times in recent months but this two track 7" is something special to behold. The first release on artist Josh McAlear's new label and bearing his spectacular cover drawing, this beautiful little record is essentially an homage to the pagan roots of Halloween and Glenn Danzig's most spiritually focused period. When I saw Danzig on the first solo tour in 1988 he was still performing his Samhain masterpiece To Walk The Night- which, incidentally, is a line culled directly from Anne Rice's novel Interview With a Vampire- and it was a brooding respite in the midst of an otherwise frenzied rock 'n' roll communion. Swanson intuitively understands the tortured subtleties of Danzig's vocals and while his voice is not necessarily suited for this dark ballad, the band offers up a deadly serious homage that works well enough. The A-side title track however is a stone cold killer, writhing with characteristic menace and dour devotion. In all honesty the crushing Night Bitch Sex & Magic EP, which was recently pressed to vinyl following the limited edition cassette version, is musically superior but I keep stumbling on the name (almost as dumb and misleading as Anal Vomit) and rushed graphics so the more aesthetically pleasing relic wins. Stylish silver ink printed on black sleeves and limited to 300 numbered copies. All documented. All true.
Circle The Wagons
You didn't seriously think I'd neglect to mention this, did you? I assume there's a ton of shit being talked about Circle The Wagons on the Internet (my new favorite zine Chromium Dioxide gave it a smarmy kiss-off in issue #3) but this final piece in my Darkthrone art trinity is a damn fun record! I know, I know. Darkthrone isn't supposed to be "fun". WAAAA. I also know how shamelessly self-referential it is to mention this on my own year end round up. Boo hoo. The song I expected to like least when Fenriz first mentioned the title has turned out to be my anthem for 2010 ("...all day so I don't have to see your face!") and the title track with its soaring chorus has served as a hearty strip club drikkende-sang. This is a modern anti-modern classic that will remain in heavy rotation for years to come. I think I just heard the NWN! message board implode in a mushroom cloud of goat bones and Mountain Dew.