Released: 2009, Ibex Moon Records
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Hod is one of those tiny, virtually unknown groups that might have played at a local bar the other night, while still having the ability to put out a decent record. Hailing from Texas (which I’ll argue is the most ‘metal’ state in the Union) and packing a lust for bare-bones blackened death metal, SERPENT is Hod’s first full album after a previous EP release.
Overall, there’s a fair amount to like here. Hod goes for a hybrid of Deicide and Carcass, with a little Cannibal Corpse thrown in for kicks. The ramblingly atonal, tremolo grind guitars remind me a lot of Deicide in particular. The songs are moody, strong, and adequately brutal, particularly the opener “Victims” which features some really nasty riffs and some murderous vocal hooks. “God of Darkness and Winter” features some great grooves and a evocatively evil guitar solo. Guitar solos are sparse, but effective. The production and recording quality is pretty tin-can, but rest assured its light-years better than some of the other tripe I’ve had the displeasure of hearing this month.
What’s made me really groove on Hod is vocalist “Beer” Keeb. This guy has a spectacularly monstrous voice. He thankfully doesn’t go full cookie monster, choosing instead to reside between a dark growl and a bloody gurgle. Abuse of his vocal chords aside, he does a great job of making his performance dynamic and full of life (or should I say, death.) He is also unusually intelligible for a death metal vocalist, which means I don’t always have to look up their lyrics to get the full impact of his performance.
But despite Beer’s glowing star, sloppy drumwork almost cancels him out. The fills and blastbeats on “Ritual of Vengeance” are absolutely all over the place, and drummer Dennis Sanders seems to have a hard time keeping tricky double bass patterns going throughout the album. Drum fills are routinely out of time or late – blastbeats are hit-or-miss, which totally ruins the point of using them in the first place – and to top it off, his drums were the victim of a bad (or poorly paid) sound engineer, because they sound like bricks being thrown at the side of a dumpster. In addition, there’s an obnoxiously out of time solo bass groove “God of Darkness and Winter” – what’s the point of featuring any particular instrument if the musician can’t play the part right? While the musicianship of all players is reasonably good throughout, I can’t overlook this level of slop in a modern album.
SERPENT is an album I can easily recommend to easily appeased death metal freaks – there’s more than enough sludgy, brutal riffs and (sloppy) blastbeasts in this CD to explode a sheep. Hod has more than a measure of talent, and vocalist Beer Keebs’ performance should not be missed. With a good producer and a little more money, Hod could be a leading force in the degraded American metal scene. But if you’re looking for something more polished or something that isn’t so rooted in the depths of necro old-school, you may be better served looking elsewhere.