I got into a lot of sludgy, witchy type, metal bands this year and the one that comes in with my 9th favorite album of the year is currently shrouded in some mystery. There just isn't a whole lot of information on them on the internet that I can find, but damn it, Ruby the Hatchet should be huge and their album Valley of the Snake is the proof.
It would be easy to make a list of other bands this album brings to mind. But I'm not going to do that. Yes, it's deeply rooted in a certain style of 70s psychedelic rock and I don't think they shy away from this, but this album, this band, is too good to think of as just a throwback to anything. From the opening bass lines of "Heavy Blanket," which are quickly joined by organ, guitar and drums in a creeping groove you get the sense of just coming over a mountain and seeing this vast valley of snakes below and it's a little scary. Then, Jillian Taylor's voice comes in like a howling wind and you realize you will follow this witchy woman into that pit of vipers, or pretty much anywhere, willingly, and you will "lay your heavy blanket" over her when she's cold.
Throughout the album, it's hard to pick one player that stands out. Lake Muir on bass and Owen Stewart on drums provide a mountainous rock foundation for the bubbling magma of Sean Hur's organ, while the flames of Johnny Scarp's guitar roar behind the preaching, beckoning priestess, Taylor. So, yeah, I'm going with the volcano metaphor. And it's a darkly sexy or sexily dark volcano for sure, as evidenced by the palpable doom in the opening riffs of "Tomorrow Never Comes," that lead to Taylor telling us we don't need anyone except for her and nothing except for her love. It's entrancing and might make you some kind of vampire or minion if you listen to it enough times and I'm totally fine with that proposition. Hell, I might even willingly jump into that volcano.
The album is 40 minutes long over just 6 songs and while there are some sprawling instrumental breaks, it's never excessive or indulgent as this type of thing can sometimes be. Everything just makes sense the way it is and comes across in a very natural way without pretension. I'm looking forward to uncovering some of the mystery of this band as they inevitably get bigger.