People following this band from Connecticut, which is comprised of Phil Swanson (who doesn't need any introduction here, does he?), Simon Tuozzoli (King Of Salem) and Michael Petrucci (Curse The Son), may own or at least crave for the vinyl of "Bloodbath" released in 2011. However, this CD from Polish label Nine Records features a different version of the trio's debut album, for the songs on the LP were recorded with a number of guest musicians. Therefore, you can say this is the real deal, while the nerdy folks of doom out there might sniff at the not so collectable format.
Anyway, it's the music that matters, right? Here, you get 72 minutes of it - with hardly any idle running. The tracks were obviously written during different times ("Blood Oath" for instance also appears on a split with Atlantean Kodex' first recordings), but still sound consistent as a whole. Since the voice makes the comparison inevitable, let's put Vestal Claret right beside Swanson's other less prominent bands, namely Upwards Of Endtime and Briton Rites. This is only reasonable, because the group sticks to its traditional guns but is not afraid of reaching out into more progressive or psychedelic realms ("Allowance Of Sin" owes much to its calm bridge towards the end) of heaviness. Just take the ten-minute opener "Hex Of Harm" with its fantastic waltz-section, the galopping and extraordinarily nuanced "Missing Girl" or the freakish, quirky character of the vocals in general. During the plodding "Devil's Daughters", the singer is closer to Ozzy than ever without sounding ridiculous.
Regardless, you probably hear some of the strongest choruses Swanson was ever allowed to sing on this longplayer, for example during the woeful "Ritual Of Revival" or in "Tales Of The Forgotten", alongside lyrics that are worth reading as usual. The man has the rare ability to contrive horror stories you can interpret in such a way as to extract some personal value from them (religion and faith are prevalent topics), which is actually what all good fiction authors do. With respect to this, "A Call To Satan" is another true highlight.
In strictly musical terms, Vestal Claret remain unpredictable within their stylistic field, not so much with the sluggish "Endurement To The Heirs Of Shame" as with its more lively successor "Submissive To Evil", whereas "The Correlation" seems so light-footed you could tag it classic rock if it did not refuse commercial appeal, again by means of its vocal hookline, which is far from the usual fare ...
... and let's face it: if you're a sucker for Phil's voice, you cannot pass on "Bloodbath". Other than that, the album is still above par as an epitome of metal wisdom that comes with, but gladly never of age.
words by Andreas Schiffmann