Vestal Claret – The Cult of Vestal Claret



The considerable figure of Phil Swanson is something of a modern day doom deity: most noted for his work with Hour Of 13, his myriad other vehicles have all received gushing praise. Not least Vestal Claret who, with this third full-length, purvey what a nameless colleague has referred to as ‘happy doom’. I’ll let you tell him, Steve…

The Cult of Vestal Claret (Cruz del Sur Records) is indeed an uplifting listen despite lyrics espousing the reek of burning flesh, sacrifice and witchcraft. Buzzing riffs duel with leads from fellow ex-Earthlord axewielder Simon Tuozzoli whilst Swanson’s voice, with heavy nods to Ozzy Osbourne and Biff Byford, covers it all in a bright roar. ‘Three and Three Are Six’ is reminiscent of Thin Lizzy at the outset, dual leads keeping a ripping pace, whilst a slightly off the mark rhythm section, high in the mix to promote it, provides a steely edge. Pots sound like popping crisp bags at times during the title track, highlighting something of an issue: the production does give an eerie atmosphere but aside from that is absolutely hideous, an uneven mix plonking a lead solo so far down it’s nearly undetectable.

The brooding, acoustic-led ‘The Demon and the Deceiver’ is underpinned by rumbling bass and a delightfully grand vocal, while ‘Piece of Meat’ is a paean to satanic sacrifice; which, as you’d expect, isn’t exactly complimentary to the fairer sex but does see a return of those Lizzy-style dual leads without sounding in the least dated.

A great version of Sabbath’s ‘Who Are You?’ should really close the set but another acoustic-led rip-snorter, ‘The Stranger’, reaffirms that link with a rambunctious yet bludgeoning riff, the voice displaying its influences beautifully. It’s the seventeen-minute epic ‘Black Priest’, however, which allows the band to shine. An ominous yet melodic opening, reminiscent of any 70s metal slowie you could shake a stick at, grows through Floyd-esque keys and leads and is accompanied by frequent explosions of crunching riffs. It has the feel of old-style occult rock classics and is just as enticing.

This will grow and grow.


7.5 / 10

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