A lot of times we listen to bands for a particular sound or style. In those instances we might be looking for some kind of fix, something to scratch an itch, or to satisfy an ear worm. Most of the time we do this by listening to releases by a particular band. (Whether those albums are new or old, we do it all the same.) Sometimes we run across a band who can do a particular style or play in the vein of a specific artist while adding enough of their own unique flourishes that it goes beyond merely scratching an itch. This is one of those cases.
Hyborian, out of Kansas City, MO, don’t sound like a new band needing more polish on their debut release, Hyborian Vol. I. I was given this album with the description of “Mastodon worship” and that isn’t that far off base. The band cite High on Fire and Crowbar as influences and you can definitely hear the former in the guitar tones. The reality, however, is this band lies somewhere in the very narrow valley of the above influences particularly on opening track, “As Above, So Below”. They are able to harness that same thrash-y malevolence and driving power as they raise the curtain on this effort.
“Maelstrom” however is much more in the Matt Pike vein of things as is later track “Ajna”. Having your band compared to the legendary Godfather of Stoner Metal isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, and it provides a solid base for this band to attempt their mission of spreading their music to as many ears as possible. The latter track is much more intricate than the former in adding layers throughout speaking directly to some of the claims from their bio: “Hyborian writes something, then breaks it down into its component parts, and figure out ways to create melodies and countermelodies”. For “Ajna” this is an accurate statement and adds the kind of embellishments that demonstrate their capability to bring something a little different to the sound they employ.
The guitar work starts to get increasingly interesting with “Blood for Blood” while also being potentially the most compelling for the widest swath of people trying to get into this band. It’s tight and tidy in its summation of the band’s overall sound at this stage of their career. “Dead Lies Dreaming”, however, explores a more Crack the Skye-type of feel at first but then creates a nice change of pace with an almost punk-ish or thrash style riff. It would be nice to see them incorporate more of those kinds of jarring shifts as the guitarists, Martin Bush and Ryan Bates, are quite capable of some stellar interplay. That ability, though, also can drag the band sometimes like the solos on this track that feel a little paint-by-numbers that while executed extremely well leave the listener wanting a little more from the obvious talent the band has.
“Dross”, the final track here, is also the most promising for what direction they might wind up going in. This is more of that mix of Mastodon and thrash that in the right riffing hands could be quite compelling. If anything this might be where some of the Crowbar influences are heard. The choppier time signature midway through the song is almost reminiscent of Helmet as well but, while a novel divergence from the other five tracks it isn’t nearly as compelling as the crescendo that follows it to close this EP.
So, certainly, “Mastodon worship” and the lesson here, as ever it was, is that Eden is always right. But I would hasten to add that this is a band with a tremendous upside depending on which direction they choose to take this style and make it more their own.
If you’ve felt a little less than satisfied with the latest Mastodon efforts and want something in the vein of Leviathan or Blood Mountain, then this is a good place to satisfy those ears. This is a pretty solid wall of noise. If they continue to grow and especially evolve they could make some serious waves with fans of the aforementioned bands looking for something new to expand their collection.
Hyborian Vol. I is available via www.thecompanykc.com on vinyl, CD, and cassette and wherever mp3s are sold.