Man, it feels like I haven’t heard from Phil Swanson in a while. Unofficially recognized as The Voice of Underground Occult Power Doom, the dude was in, like, 27 bands at one time… or so it seemed. This particular outfit, Vestal Claret, was recently resurrected; they had previously disbanded so Swanson could focus on other bands, got back together without him, threw a coupla splits in the can… and are now officially recognized as a two-piece (with a guest drummer). ‘Tis a twisted history that matches Swanson’s own musical career path, I suppose.
Satanic themes certainly abound on this one. “Three and Three are Six” contains at least a couple of Steve Harris style galloping basslines, an uptempo number that somewhat recalls very early, raw Iron Maiden. Its chorus checks off black masses, sacrifice and witchcraft like some sorta satanic shopping list. “Great Goat God” adopts the same purposeful pace as a similarly-titled Blood Ceremony tune, this one a pretty decent slice of doomy occult rock. I’m still waiting for the flute solo, though. “The Demon and the Deceiver” offers a change of pace, a mellow, sombre interlude that nevertheless lasts five-plus minutes. Coincidentally, I think I might actually hear a flute at one point on this one, although that could just be some wailing feedback.
If it sounds like I’ve heard “Black Priest” before, it’s because I have. The 17-minute doomsterpiece was first featured on a split EP with Indian act Albatross (not be confused with spazzcore outfit An Albatross). I even reviewed it at the time, stating it’s
“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.”
Though they re-recorded said song for this album, I’d say that still sounds about right.
Speaking of songs I’ve heard before, Vestal Claret chose to cover the synth-heavy “Who Are You” offa Sabbath Bloody Sabbath on here, too. To his credit, Swanson does a pretty decent Ozzy impression, although I don’t think that song’s about Satan…
(Cruz del Sur)