Faces of Bayon
Heart of the Fire
posted on 6/2011 By:
That word alone might be all that's necessary to push a number of folks towards this album. Despite the fact that he shoveled coals to the flames pre-As Heaven Turns to Ash, Faces of Bayon guitarist/vocalist Matt Smith did indeed stand as a member of the titanic WarHorse outfit that soldiered alongside stoner doom predecessors such as Electric Wizard and Sleep. And although I'd call Heart of the Fire an adequately different beast, it's certainly proof that Smith and his two cohorts, bassist Ron Miles and drummer Matt Davis (R.I.P.), decided to continue the ponderously heavy trajectory that he first stepped toward back in the late 90s.
Here's the kicker, though: I've now come to enjoy Heart of the Fire just as much as anything the WarHorse camp (plus or minus Mr. Smith) managed to drop during their relatively brief existence. Perhaps the riff-heft here alone falls a bit short of the apex of pulverization that toppled the Pearly Gates a decade ago, but I love the way this new Smith enterprise places an emphasis on a smoky, vintage atmosphere that conjures visions of a slower, darker Witchcult Today. In that regard, I'd be more apt to throw Faces of Bayon in a similar basket as Sweden's occult crawlers, Saturnalia Temple, just for comparison's sake.
True to the style, Faces of Bayon deliver big on the elements that guarantee a fully-pitched tent to any passionate fan of the genre: loads of mammoth riffs fatter than an elephant's ass in a hammock loom around every corner; a strongly audible, deep bass tone that's fuzzier than a buzz on an empty stomach gets oodles of attention; and a plodding, cavernous rhythm that charmingly stumbles through fills with a technique reminiscent of the late, great Armando Acosta puts the ol' feather in the cap.
But what's particularly refreshing about Faces of Bayon is the fact that the band shakes up their slooooowly galumphing method with measures cut from a clearly different cloth. Opener "Brimstoned" spends the bulk of its 12-minutes lumbering unhurriedly, but it eventually achieves a much speedier gallop that culminates with an exceptionally headbangable megaton strut at the 9.5-minute mark. And "Godmaker" -- alongside the relatively brief closer, "The Fire Burns at Dawn" -- maintains the album's clearly dark mood, but does so with a quiet, drifting means completely devoid of metal.
Further spicing the mix are a few more subtle shifts, like the way "Where the Golden Road Ends" breaks from the overall darkness with a shade more of an upbeat 'psych-rock' feel that's further boosted by the curiously rhythmic bounce to Smith's gruff bark. Or the way "The Original Sin" slowly morphs into a wall of hallucinogenic feedback for the full stretch of its closing 4-minutes.
All of these encompassing elements are smartly balanced (and certainly amplified) within a velvety-warm, engaging production that's very conducive to repeat visits and clearly marks Heart of the Fire as something any fan of walloping stoner doom should immediately seek out. And really, at a mere 10-clams from Ragnarok Records, why the hell wouldn't you take the plunge?
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