Hora – Witch Trial Sessions Vol. 1


Hora are Bristol’s newest name on the doom metal scene, but some of you will know drummer, Daniel Brodsky, as one-half of SBR favourites, Thundering Hooves. Brodsky’s new project is slower and crueller than his more famous black metal unit, and it takes the Cornish witch trials of the seventeenth century as its subject matter. At three tracks in length, Hora’s debut EP is a confident way to announce their arrival in a genre that has more acolytes than the Japanese Shinto religion.  

Let’s be clear: the room for manoeuvre in doom metal diminishes with every passing year. Sludge metal and post-metal are far more innovative. Think of Conjurer’s brand of progressive sludge or the cinematic anguish of KOLLAPS\E for examples of how the latter continue to innovate. Italian acts like Messa and Ponte Del Diavolo have injected doom with an avant-garde flavour recently, but the micro-genre of death-doom is where you’ll find the best artists. Hora fall somewhere in between traditional doom with a heavy metal thrust and a gory vocal approach that would not be out of place on the latest Static Abyss album.

Opener, ‘The Judge’s Conceit’, establishes its presence with a vibrating bass line plucking the strings in contemplation of a dark future event. Listen to the squeep of the fingers as they move along the frets – you’ll feel like you’re in the control room with the band. The introduction of guitars and voice is a lot grislier than you expect. This has the feel of an underground death-doom demo straight out of the rehearsal room but with a professional mix. You can hear a heroic rock voice trying to break through the savagery of the growls, but the bass is louder than a tractor engine. Paradise Lost meets Monster Magnet might sound incongruous, and it is. Only when the band switch to a faster downshift of guitars at 03:10 does this song reach boiling point. Yet there appears to be a chasm between the vocals and the music as if they share no common thread.

‘The Executioner’s Introspection’ is a similar spectacle of burrowing basslines with psychedelic guitar textures. Saint Vitus and The Obsessed are the main influences here. Again, the vocals are swampy in their delivery. Guitars and drums glide along like a metastasising disease. Melody does not come easily to this band, nor should it when the emphasis is on producing an ache in your neck muscles. It makes the reset to clean guitar arpeggios at 03:46 even more poignant – now we’re in Pink Floyd territory. Can you breathe in the luminous fragrance of the rainbow colours? Let the lead guitar lift you above the dreariness of life and into the arms of a heavenly spirit. The way the quartet dive back into the danger of a burning building for the doom metal outro of palm-muted riffing and chugging bass is a testament to their love of all things morbid.  This is a perfect setting for overdubs, and the guitarist makes the most of the opportunity to work through his blues scales in enhanced fuzz.

Hora are like an evil cousin of Kyuss and a spiritual brother of Green Lung but with bloodthirsty vocals. Closing track, ‘Lament of the Condemned’, would be easy to identify as a pentatonic blues song if played in a cleaner mode. Thickened in mud and turned up loud, it sounds like a sludge metal band with the occasional whisky-swig of a cackling voice. The sleet of the guitar fuzz leaves an opaque echo behind like smoke traversing across water. Your thoughts will rotate in an orderly meditation. Where did these five minutes and thirty-eight seconds go?

Volume 2 is already in the works, and we should be expecting big things from Hora if this debut is a reference point for their next move.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 09/02/2024

Record Label: Self-released

Standout track: The Executioner’s Introspection

Suggested Further Listening: Dreadbeggar – Sludgefuck Blues EP (2021), Existence Dysphoria – Minus Negative (2022), Green Lung – This Heathen Land (2023)