Monday 26 January 2015

Ruby The Hatchet - Valley of the Snake (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 24/2/2015
Label: Teepee Records

‘Valley of the Snake’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1.) Heavy Blanket
2.) Vast Acid
3.) Tomorrow Never Comes
4.) Unholy Behemoth
5.) Demons
6.) Valley of the Snake

Ruby The Hatchet is:

Jillian Taylor | Vocals
Johnny Scarp | Guitar
Mike Parise | Bass
Owen Stewart | Drums
Sean Hur | Organ


First off, let’s take a second to familiarize with the band. I believe it was back in 2012 that I purchased the first outing by Ruby the hatchet called ‘Ouroboros’, due in no small part to the buzz surrounding the band on the internet. My thoughts on that record were this; a really strong first outing and the band had some genuinely good ideas and hooks that mesh well with everything they are trying to do.  They just needed to find something to separate themselves from the rest of the retro doom/psych pack.

Fast forward to the ‘Eliminator’ 7inch last year, Ah ha! A nice blend of early Danzig-esque darkened blues rock mixed with the ever present Sabbath vibe.  A bit of a different vocal tonality and delivery than we don’t hear every day(I actually described this to a friend as “imagine first run Danzig band mixed with Iommi mixed with Fleetwood Mac and a Hammond organ.“ And I stand by that comparison!). I like it, they are growing and maturing, I like it a lot.  With only 2 new songs I wondered what will come of them next? 1.5 albums in and it could really go any way…..

Fast forward to the present and the upcoming ‘Valley of the Snake’ is the offering I have before me. I am anxious as to what the band now holds; will they have grown or changed? Will they have fallen into the ever growing abyss of heavy rock doom influenced bands populating the world these days? Short answer to these questions, yes, they have grown. No they have not fallen into the rest of the pack. With ‘Valley of the Snakes’ we get six tracks and we see a much more mature, darker, and very well structured Ruby the hatchet with tracks all over the 5 minute mark.

The record starts out strong with ‘Heavy Blanket’, a nice sort of psycho organ note, blending to a guitar and organ intro before the vocals come in strong. The absolute first thing I noticed on this is how much Jillian has grown in both vocal approach and the tonality to her voice, a very Stevie Nicks vibe to it naturally and it fits perfectly with not only this song but the band as a whole.  The whole band is on point for the entire opening track (and the entire album for that matter), fuzzy bass, thumping beats, clean when they need to be and greasy when they want guitars and that organ moved to the front instead of melting into the back, it’s perfect!!

The next track is ‘Vast Acid’ and it builds on what was laid before, until terminating into track 3, ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’.  This is doom!!! Pure crushing almost funeral doom and one of the best examples I’ve heard in recent times. It’s almost funny that there is a line in the song that goes “don’t worry bout tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes” and ill be damned if you don’t think, “well ok I guess that’s it” and smile about it. Another highpoint in the song is the spacey guitar solo about halfway through. This track is worth the entrance fee alone, slow and plodding with soaring vocals and wonderful use of the organ. ‘Unholy Behemoth’ is another chunk of stoner doom that plays as a great sequel to the previous track. (I do appreciate and like the guitar work in this one a bit more than in the previous three tracks.)

Track 5, ‘Demons’, starts with an 80’s horror movie synth and that theme continues throughout the track, but with a faster pace that we have heard on the tracks before it, it is a  super fun track with more of an exploration on all parts, almost funky for all intents and purposes.  About halfway through there is a shift to a groove laden romp, imagine the song like this, (first part your trying to catch a buzz and about three minutes later… there it is, spacey mellow and groovy and then back into mania). It’s a really cool and adventurous track.

Finishing off with ‘Valley of the Snake’, there is a big change of pace with acoustic and clean guitars and big clean organ sounds, very reminiscent of a folk song. I would consider this almost an occult folk song, with the vocal talent and overall melodic prowess of the band on full display here. Not often can a band completely shift gears sound wise, close out a superb record and have it work flawlessly and that is exactly what Ruby the hatchet has done.

Overall this is an excellent record that I suspect will end up on many year end lists, a whole 11 months from its release date. That is a big statement, because obviously this year has just began, but it is a statement I am standing by. If you’re in the market for a heavy psych/stoner rock record with huge doom tendencies that stand out from the majority of the pack, look no further than ‘Valley of the Snake’.

Words by: David Heaton

You can pick up a CD/LP copy here.

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