HOUR OF 13, 333 (2012, Earache)
We know…this should have been SKULL333 in the Skullection. You smart ass, lot, you. But the skulldiggers in the employ of the Council hadn’t unearthed this gem in time. Once found, the prickly hair-on-end feeling that our archaeologists usually get upon uncovering a skull was only half as creepy as usual. And the skull was missing half its teeth. And the nine-pointed star that emanated from its being was only half as evil-seeming as some 18-pointed star that our head archaeologist saw once. Still, we take all comers, as long as its a skull with lineage to heavy metal. We had to wonder if the music it represented was going to be half as good as all the best doom metal bands? Our research was only half concluded (or half begun, if you’re an optimist).
In their short career (2006-2014), North Carolina’s Hour of 13 made some pretty sizable waves in the doom metal community. And weirdly enough, I hadn’t taken the time to listen to them until duty called here at Big Dumb Skulls. Opener “Deny the Cross” is not only not an Overkill song, it’s not half-bad. The rhythms, melodies, guitar tones and vocals are all appropriately macabre-sounding, akin to the more straightforward lurch of classic Candlemass and the lightly abstract surrealism of that same band’s Dactylis Glomerata. Phil Swanson’s vocals possess the kind of character you’d hope for, neither being too overtly close in style to Ozzy Osbourne or Messiah Marcolin, or any of the other vocalists that doom copyists favor (and, every now and then, he recalls Alan Averill in Primordial’s A Journey’s End era). I know some others have charged Swanson with being too Ozzy-like, but he’s no Dan Fondelius (Count Raven) in that category, and I suspect those “critics” have very narrow reference points when it comes to doom (like, Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath and Black Sabbath. And solo Ozzy). There are even quite a few killer riffs here. Ultimately I find most newer doom bands charged with the impossible task of impressing beyond the godfathers of the genre, who laid down an nearly impossible-to-match blueprint. But Hour of 13 does a pretty damn good job of it, and the fact that they’re relatively original for a band of this style speaks volumes for their integrity. One of their main strengths is their incorporation of true/dark/traditional heavy metal elements, so that fans of Dio, Slough Feg, Manilla Road and Judas Priest could get into this. Not bad at all, and recommended to discerning doom fans who haven’t yet checked it out.
— Friar Wagner