(Self-released split EP, digital download)
Can you imagine finding an ancient scroll from the distant past, filled with tales of evil and black magic? I read a J.R.R. Tolkien biography once in which an Oxford professor compared reading The Silmarillion to unearthing a lost legendarium from the darkest corners of history. I can just visualize some wanderer in an apocalyptic future discovering a dust-covered copy of KiefCatcher and Hellascope's new split EP and listening with equal parts wonder and dread as tales of wizards and demons are recounted over gigantic riffs.
It's a dream pairing for stoner metal lovers. The two Burlington bands have established their respective sounds in the same genre but remain refreshingly distinct. KiefCatcher can stomp with the best of them, but they possess a hint of new-wave British heavy metal. Hellascope, a true power trio, achieve a staggering heaviness reminiscent of early Queens of the Stone Age. Each band offers a pair of tracks on the EP; together, they weave a doom-laden tale.
KiefCatcher land the first blow with "Purple Sorceress." (That has got to be a strand of killer weed, right?) Opening with a huge riff, the band takes us through a nice mid-range head bang to a smoke-filled room, where they momentarily embrace their inner '90s grunge. They quickly snap back to heaviness; the band has a firm grasp of its dynamic, after all.
"Wharf Lord" finds KiefCatcher in their sweet spot. They all but languish in the stoned pomp of it all, drop-tuned guitars twisting around one another and dire proclamations from singer Ben Zelvis, such as "the human race could not keep pace." It's a damn fine metal song, and I'd go on about it more if the two Hellascope tracks weren't so fucking killer.
"There's no magic anymore," vocalist and guitarist Woodsy sings as Hellascope deliver a frenetic "No Magic." The song tells of the search for hidden knowledge leading to corruption, of gazing too long into the abyss. "With ritualistic sacrifice, my evil powers grew," the narrator sings of his cursed downfall.
Hellascope's style has a tension born of locked-in riffs carried by a trio. Its epic weightiness is virtually unmatched locally. "Creature (of the night)" offers proof. It's the best song on the EP and, in fact, the best metal song I've heard all year. The riff's sinister snarl, wrapped in distortion and flange, blends effortlessly with the bedrock laid down by bassist Mikey and drummer Sawyer. (The band members eschew last names.)
As a concept, the split EP can be tricky. But the two bands mesh well. The record can be downloaded at either of their Bandcamp pages. KiefCatcher can be seen on Thursday, September 14, at Club Metronome in Burlington; Hellascope hits up Radio Bean on the 21st.