The band was formed in 2008, and recorded all of 'Heart of the Fire' live in the studio and have dedicated the finished recording in memory of drummer Matt Davis, who died suddenly in January 2011. Mike Brown has since become their drummer, but on 'Heart of the Fire' , it’s the band’s original three-piece that you hear, with Davis and bassist Ron Miles led by guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith, who played in the legendary Warhorse just before they recorded the monumental 'As Heaven Turns to Ash' album.
The Warhorse connection gives you a little clue as to what brand of stoner-doom the band is dishing out here. They trudge along slow with an extremely low bottom-end and just when you think it can't get any lower, it gets lower still.
Along with Warhorse the band plays in the vein of Winter, Coffins, Soulpreacher, Burning Witch, Toadliquor, early Electric Wizard and Cathedral from the Forest of Equilibrium era so it is the very best of the really heavy influences here and yes, they also use a lot of Black Sabbath riffage as well. And this is real doom, no sign of optimistic, mid-tempo happy stoner riffing or hippie stuff here, this is pure doom and gloom all the way but somehow they still sound catchy even though they play with sloth-like energy. Opener, 'Brimstoned' sets the tone for the album, it begins heavy and just gets even heavier. Even the lighter passages where the vocals are whispered and not growled still sound heavy and when the guitar takes on a haunting psychedelic tone it is nothing more than a set-up for a another unearthly crawling and crushing section of doom.
This song is not all old-school either, there is a seething darkness about this that reminds me of Celtic Frost circa 'Monotheist' but it is interwoven with sections of pure malevolence that makes Tom Warrior look like Paul McCartney, well yeah, that is a bit over-the-top but you get my drift. 'Brimstoned' churns along for around 12 minutes and there is no let-up to the downtrodden doom vibe and parts of it will push even the most hardcore doom fans to the edge of insanity. The squealing feedback that occurs during the track for example is like someone shoving a knitting needle in your ear, it's not pleasant and if your neighbors are easily offended you better watch the volume on this tune. To sum it up, this is the perfect opener and it launches on a very unpleasant hellride that will get you hooked instantly.
Another track and another classic is 'Ethereality' which seems to be even heavier than the opening track. It is more repetitive and with a more droning Khanate kind of vibe. This is the kind of doom that gets under your skin or to put it another way its like the musical version of bugs crawling on your skin. This kind of tribal drone-doom makes it one of the least accessible of the tracks but I find it truly hypnotic and the subtle nuances makes it a track that makes you discover new elements each time you listen to it. The drawn out guitar solo that comes towards the end of the track makes it all worthwhile but the track as a whole is mesmerizing. 'Godmaker' that follows provides the albums first lighter touch and it is a pure shimmering psychedelic masterpiece. This tale about Luciferian abandonment is basically like Warhorse doing Pink Floyd and it is stunningly beautiful while remaining basking in emotionally draining doom and gloom. This track sits in the running order of the tracks in a perfect place because of the sprawling behemoth that follows it.
That track is titled 'The Original Sin' and this is where the album reaches its absolute apex. The track is 9 minutes of riffs, riffs, and more riffs of anguish, pain and searing dirge that is like one part Burning Witch and one part Cathedral. The remaining 4 or so minutes of this epic is noise, and painful feedback. What makes the track work so well though is the way it slowly progresses through different stages featuring different grooves and vibes from the psychedelic to raw droning doom. This track basically had me on the floor in sheer amazement when I first heard it and makes me want to scream, "I Love Doom Metal.' Yes, that is perhaps the cheesiest comment I have ever made on this site but this track is everything I like about doom and more. This is my pick for the best track on 'Heart Of The Fire' but it is a tough call because this album is so consistent from start to finish.
From one epic to another, the album then launches into 'Where The Golden Road Ends' which is a track with multiple structures, feels and grooves. On this track a synth is laced with the guitar and it has ( I think ) more solos than any other song on the album. It has wah wah-soaked riffs and more feedback which is maybe the only over-used element that Faces Of Bayon use on the disc. Similar to the track that precedes it, it has 6 minutes of riffing dirge before the it becomes a vehicle for nothing but guitar experimentation ( well mostly ) and jaw-dropping doomy intensity. The last few minutes of the track might be a bit much to handle for some listeners but it provides a perfect lead-in for the album closer 'The Fire Burns At Dawn' The band sounds remarkably restrained on this one but not in a bad way. The song is basically just a short guitar, synth, drum outro that almost sounds like a totally different band all together but the melodic warmth of the track is an excellent way to come down after all the blistering sonic intensity from the rest of the album.
'Heart of the Fire' is a 52 minute mind-warping semi-masterpiece of doom-metal that comes as a total surprise. After all, it was released without little fanfare and with little promotion from what I saw but I have noticed it has probably been reviewed more times than any other recent release. This album is everywhere on the Internet, not bad for a band that I am guessing most people have never heard of. It is an atmospheric killer of an album and if you think you might be getting immune to heaviness, then you better give this album a spin. This is one of the heaviest releases this year and one of the most bone-charring albums ever released within the doom metal scene. The production is also worth noting, it is raw without sounding too rough, it is clean and crisp enough that everything can be heard but there is also incredible depth to the guitar - especially the bottom end. All in all, a near perfect album and you can't ask for much more than that. Buy it .......9.5/10
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