Albatross/Vestal Claret [India/USA]
The Kissing Flies/Black Priest
Indian band Albatross was one of the first bands out of India that I encountered, along with more popular acts such as Demonic Resurrection and Kryptos. Unlike their extreme metal counterparts, Albatross plays what they call “horror metal”, with heavy horror themes being one of those that are present in their songs. 2010’s Dinner is You took me numerous listens to get into, but once past that stage it’s nothing but enjoyment after that. Last year’s announcement of new materials being released this year in the form of a split with American occult rock/heavy metal band Vestal Claret certainly got me eagerly anticipating for it, and the sneak preview in the form of the track Uncle Sunny at the Tavern certainly got me excited.
Sticking to the morbid and rotten theme of flies for the material on this split, Albatross opens their side with the introductory track Wither, complete with sounds of flies buzzing around. The laughter in the background tests limits of the listener’s sanity, and instantly sends chills down the listener’s back, and this also shows the band’s sticking to their horror theme. And without much delay, the band begins their onslaught proper with the already familiar Uncle Sunny at the Tavern. If one has heard the band’s material on Dinner is You, then it is immediately apparent how much the band has grown since those days, with the expansion of sounds on the album. Right from the start of Uncle Sunny at the Tavern, it is a busy listening experience, with an explosion of sounds and energy bursting forth from the band. The unique vocal quality of Biprorshee Das while possibly needing a couple of listens to get used to certainly adds to that haunting and dark quality of the album. The screams on Kissing Flies add to that spine-tingling effect as well. Guitarists Vigneshkumar and Nishith’s skills are evident throughout their side of the split, with the tasteful solos that they unleash. Dr. Hex’s bassllines are also remarkable, and in particular, Kissing Flies sees him showing off his skills with that short bass solo section.
As already mentioned before, Albatross further explores and expands the sound that they have crafted on Dinner is You, and this is most obvious in the form of the inclusion of shrieks and growls that are littered throughout their side of the split, giving the songs a more extreme sound compared to their previous outputs. Title track Kissing Flies even provides some quirky moments, with an almost psychedelic feel to the repetitive riffs that are played in the beginning, and without warning the band once again goes into heavy mode, complete with the aggressive double bass attack of drummer Jay Thacker. The band also proves their songwriting ability with the versatility that is shown on on their contributions, with each track having a vastly different sound from each other. For example, while Uncle Sunny at the Tavern is a pretty straightforward heavy/power metal track, Kissing Flies takes a much darker approach and it just gets darker and heavier as Albatross ends their side with From Ashes Comes Life. There is also the guest appearance of Wolf vocalist Niklas Stalvind on Uncle Sunny at the Tavern.
The production quality on The Kissing Flies is also another thing that has made this listening experience extremely enjoyable, giving the guitars a full and ballsy tone, allowing for the full power and heaviness of the guitar to crush the listener. Dr. Hex’s bass is also audible throughout, and provides that lower-end growl on the songs, reinforcing that dark edge.
American heavy metal band Vestal Claret then provides a single track for their side, entitled Black Priest, that is broken down into three main sections. This is my first encounter with Vestal Claret and I have to say I am definitely impressed with the depressive style of doom metal that the band plays, managing to incorporate that dark atmosphere with heaviness, yet managing to maintain that sense of melody throughout. Philip Swanson’s (also of Hour of 13) vocals are stellar as usual, and there are even moments where there is a slight Ozzy Osbourne resemblance. Unlike that energy filled songs of Albatross, Black Priest is markedly slower and much more melancholic, reminding me of the slower songs of Dio-era Black Sabbath, with that strong presence of the bass and the lead guitar style that at times remind listeners of Tony Iommi. The three parts of the song are also extremely prominent, marked by a drastic shift in playing style. For example, as the band moves into the second segment of the song there is a sudden increase in the heaviness and aggressiveness in the riffs and the drumming of Christopher (Nightbitch).
The Kissing Flies/Black Priest has definitely been an extremely enjoyable journey, and it has certainly been satisfying to see the growth of Albatross as a band. The discovery of Vestal Claret through this split is a pleasant bonus, and makes this split all the more a must-listen for fans of all things heavy and doom.
Album Review: Albatross – Dinner Is You