Sour Times MCD
Seasons of Mist
Confessor! Unjustly overlooked, and unfairly relegated to (super-hip, secret, you don’t even know it yet) cult status if there ever was a band. I don’t get it, what happened to these guys? First, they had one of the more visually-striking and utilitarian logos in extreme metal history: thin-white blades spelling out the letters of their name, but with the twin “SS” formed from two ivory serpents. A Confessor shirt (on the one or two occasions I actually saw one, once on Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport, wayyyy back) would make you do a double-take, and in an age of unreadable, spiky/bloody messes, this was no mean feat.
Confessor! They disappeared for years, remembered fondly by a hardcore few (for they were not an easygoing proposition, but ultimately more rewarding in the end), but now they’re back, having weathered industry bullshit and personal tragedy, reborn like a dark phoenix.
Confessor! I’ve always wondered why they weren’t picked up by the Southern Lord crew in their quest to rehabilitate the trailblazers and leading lights of the ’80s/’90s doom movement. It might have something to do with Confessor’s dark and questing muse, which summoned forth dense and mysterious hybrids of doom metal and power metal virtuosity, melding pure plodding despair with dazzling theatrics and eccentricity into a totally individual whole. This made them a little harder to take, to understand, to readily categorize. I know that for myself, all those years ago, I came to Confessor expecting more typical melancholic doom fare, but instead what I got was lightning tempo and riff changes, neo-progressive arrangements of monolithic guitar might and, in singer Scott Jeffreys, a virtuoso who treats his voice like an opera performer would, swooping in and out between the crumbling riff structures, crossing back and forth between falsetto and growl to androgynous effect (I’ve been asked several times if Confessor is a girl band), and a stature and poise most closely aligned with that of the iconic Messiah Marcolin.
But enough of that, let’s get on to the first new Confessor offering in far too long. I also need to mention that their drummer is one of the best in the doom business, I think he and Dale Crover (of Melvins fame) stand heads above the pack in terms of inventive fills and subtlety in complementing the negative space/granite thick riffery. And what riffs they be… Sometimes they sound like a defeated, destitute sigh.
The riffs and vocals of “Sour Times” are so slowed-down and methadone heavy that they honestly sound like they are being played backwards at the wrong speed, that’s how fucking heavy this is — though later it does lighten up a hint of a pace to resemble a more conventional doom number, but the guitars are hopelessly mired in thick, black tar from which there can be no escape. The vocals soar out of this dark void, pitched somewhere between Messiah Marcolin and Jerry Cantrell. This group looks to Europe for the language it uses, unlike more blues-based doom. Some verses sound like the cd is decaying as you listen. Godhead! The way the guitar crunches before the chorus of “Sour Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimes” is just too much. The central riff is the personification of slow helpless degeneration. The closing track is a trimmed-down radio edit of same.
“Hibernation” (seems an older track too) is like King Crimson gone drone. There are little hints of the opaqueness of early Prong, of all things, just in terms of the diamond-denseness of the arrangements. Progressive guitar lines mired in distortion, octopus drumming, moebius strip-like song arrangement, buzzing and crackling with energy like angry wasps… Old favorite “Condemned” gets a high-tensile remixing treatment (as of this year) — anxiety and razor wire nervousness, the sound is condensed and claustrophobic, almost like a doom-obsessed Wire. Feels like five songs compressed into one. And there’s a remastered demo of early track “Condemned,” another track I first heard years ago. And finally I detect a slight thrash influence in structure of the riffs, though again, played like a record player at the wrong speed (Metallica on quaaludes), the singer is full well yelping for breath like a suicidal Russell Mael, at the halfway point the song breaks into a killer riff, the structure is airless, like a malevolent grey puzzle box.
This is sort of a collectors item/taster for what’s to come. Treasure this.