The Hounds of Hasselvander - The Ninth Hour (Black Widow Records)
By: David E. Gehlke
[7/10] Joe Hasselvander has too many former bands to list here, which lends to the nomadic nature of the doom scene and its sum parts. It's not terribly dissimilar to the jam band and jazz scene, where at the drop of a hat (or fedora), one can sit in on a session and jam. With doom of course, marginal knowledge of Sabbath seems to be the only thing that matters, so knowing a few triads and how to downtune one's guitar or play a snail-like 4/4 emerges as the only prerequisites. Fondness for reefer, leather vests, and dirty jeans would also count.
For Hasselvander and his rather narcissistically-named act The Hounds of Hasselvander, a steady diet of Masters of Reality and Blue Cheer is on hand throughout the The Ninth Hour's seven cuts. There's 52 minutes of music here, so naturally the trio does its fair share of doom lollygagging, like on the opening title track, of which features some dark and brooding riff action from Hasselvander. A quick nod should go to "Don't Look Around" for its sloppy, yet charming pace and grind; a sort of backhanded tribute to Motorhead, in a way.
The band's namesake has a vocal approach that is like a prickly Ozzy, which will no doubt be polarizing. Because such a vocal prompts one to sound as nasal as possible, there's a drop off in quality in tracks like "Heavier Than Thou" and "Suburban Witch," where Hasselvander tries to evoke Osbourne's petulant early 70's charm. This is easily the album's biggest deterrent and while Ozzy-aping is nothing new (does anyone remember Sheavy?), Hasselvander and friends are best suited to operate in the Pentagram-esque terrain of "Restless Soul."
Suitably aimed directly for doom gray-hairs, The Ninth Hour certainly sounds like it came from a bunch of hardened veterans. And since Hasselvander has been around the block perhaps moreso than anyone in doom not named Wino, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He's just conveying what is on everyone's mind to begin with: It all comes back to Sabbath.