It’s not necessary for me to always indulge in music that makes me want to fight people or pay homage to the old gods or put me into a psychotic fit of rage. Though that type of music certainly is nice. Now and again, I like to get lost in a record for pure enjoyment of music that doesn’t necessarily make me want to go out and set a village on fire.
So when Ruby the Hatchet’s new record “Valley of the Snake” landed in my inbox, it was just what I needed for a pure getaway experience that didn’t make me want to argue about politics or religion or people. That’s not to suggest it has no substance, because that would be patently false. But instead of it wallowing in the sad realities of life, it took me on a fantastical journey that certainly has its dark side and made me appreciate how a band and album can be a lot of fun. The fact they have a nice, psyche-smoked doom groove similar to Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony, and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats made this something that resonated with me quickly, and every journey I’ve had with these six songs has helped me move past those very weighty topics I noted earlier so I could forget about them for a while.
Ruby the Hatchet are a damn fine, formidable band as a whole, but vocalist Jillian Taylor really makes them stand out among the pack. Her smoky, commanding vocals are what drive this thing, and she’s an awful lot of fun to hear delivering and totally selling her words. Great singer. As for the rest of the band, they pack a punch with Johnny Scarps on guitar, Mike Parise on bass, Owen Stewart behind the kit, and Sean Hur providing the mood-setting, sometimes downright witchy organs. This record is a cauldron of doom rock power, and I defy you to hear this thing and not get caught up in this ride.
The record opens with “Heavy Blanket,” a doomy, bluesy piece that has organs pouring all over and Taylor in full swagger. This one leans a little more toward the rock n roll side of things, with our singer howling, “For me, there’s only now,” as killer guitar lines assemble behind her and give the back end the right amount of punch. “Vast Acid” is a killer, with the music taking a vintage doom metal turn, and Taylor threatening, “I’ll take you and break you, I’ll watch you fall.” She has a tendency to give herself over to darker tendencies like this, another thing that makes this record so good. The guitar work hits hard, the tempo gains steam, and more buzzing organs write this song’s final chapter. “Tomorrow Never Comes” is the longest cut at 8:49, and it opens with a storm thundering amid quietly plucked guitars. The cut bursts open, with a slow-burn assault taking hold, and Taylor unleashes her apocalyptic visions for you. There is some great, smoky soloing to be found, some serious chugging that could leave bruises, and a bright, raging psychedelic fire.
“Unholy Behemoth” launches into a furious stomp, with lead guitars scorching, the song taking on a Blood Ceremony-type feel, and the tempo rushing ahead. This thing’s pretty pummeling in spots, one of the heavier songs on the whole record, and the soloing glimmers and blinds as the track ends. “Demons” has a psyche gallop to it, with Taylor’s great singing leading the way, guitars buzzing furiously, and a ’60s-influenced keyboard section swinging in and adding even more character to this thing. The pace kicks up again toward the end, with the guitars bursting all over and cool organs giving you one last blast of chilly air. The closing title cut has a pulled-back start, with acoustic guitars having their way and the band taking a Led Zeppelin-friendly bend. Flutes arrive, as the track feels folkish and entrancing, before the cut picks up steam, woozy slide guitars leave you spellbound, and a big finish lets the band launch some serious fireworks that should get your blood pumping and you on a serious high.
This band is really solid, and their second record is one that should have Ruby the Hatchet coming up in more conversations. It’s also a really flexible listen, as it can go well in the car, while having some carefully chosen strong ales, or just as you’re working and looking for something to get you moving. “Valley of the Snake” is a really huge step forward for this band, and chances are good this thing is going to win them a much larger fanbase.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/rubythehatchet
To buy the album, go here: http://shop.teepeerecords.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://teepeerecords.com/