Hour of 13 – Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased (Shadow Kingdom)

Thursday, 8th June 2017
Rating: 7.5/10

Hour of 13 finds itself in the terribly difficult position of having to replace an imitable lead singer. That person would be Phil Swanson, the leather-Ozzy-lunged vocalist who helped guide the band to near-American metal prominence, only for the underground to fail to catch up to a band who were onto something with 2012’s 333. Swanson has since gone on to front the most-excellent Sumerlands, leaving main Hour of 13 dude Chad Davis to (eventually) reassemble a new lineup. In the meantime, Davis, along with the metal archaeologists at Shadow Kingdom Records have assembled the impressive Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased, a collection of odds and sods.

Featuring demos, early sketches of songs and rehearsal room recordings, Salt the Dead catches several key Hour of 13 songs in their early formation. A good chunk of these would pop up on the band’s 2007 self-released foray, most notably “Call to Satan” and the grueling “Submissive to Evil.” Here, Swanson’s earthy, gravely tones sound as edgy as ever, unadorned with any studio touch-ups or enhancements. The man is particularly haunting and charming on “Grim Reality” and “Missing Girl,” the latter a pure stroke of classic American doom. For kicks, a few of these songs feature Davis on vocals, who proves to be quite capable in such a role.

With the future of Hour of 13 starting to clear up (Davis had planned to move forward with Night Magic, although that project appears to be stalled), Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased provides a fascinating glimpse at a down-home, blue-collar American metal band who are deserving of far more attention. Such compilations typically ring hollow for newer bands (Hour of 13 formed in 2006), but there’s certainly enough here to mine through.

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