Reviewed: July 2021
Released: 2021, Hybrid Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Death Hymns, the sophomore album of Texans Switchblade Jesus (cool name points +1), was actually released late 2020, but is now out in cassette format. Let’s see what it’s all about.
Clocking in at just 27 minutes for the whole thing, SJ waste little time in announcing what they’re here to do. Death Hymns is a rough and ready, groove-heavy slab of stoner/sludge metal, the sort of thing that straddles the line between the raucous grooves of the former and the punchy aggression of the latter. Think Karma to Burn, Down, High on Fire, with different tracks hewing closer to different particular influences.
Indeed, there is some nice variety within the tracklist, with some like “Behind the Monolith” bursting into a Southern-tinted speedy gallop that’s very reminiscent of the aforementioned Karma to Burn, while others like “Forgotten” are utterly unrepentant in their raw CRUSH and STOMP. These tracks in particular are probably the best on offer, as they make such solid statements about their identity: elsewhere, Switchblade Jesus will mingle things up a little more in the fuzz, but this can be a bit of a drawback of the album as a whole. It’s not that these two styles don’t go together, but on Death Hymns at least, they feel at their strongest when working separately. At other times the album can still offer some meaty riffs, but not much else beyond that. “Behemoth” for example, is 2.5 minutes of forceful riffing and snarled vocals, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t really do much with it. It just is.
Death Hymns is solid when it commits fully to the weight of crushing riffs or the hooks of something more groovy, and needs a bit more of that to more consistently leave an impact. Still, for those who enjoy riding these sort of riff waves, Death Hymns is a perfectly serviceable piece.