When Philip Swanson says underground, it's not just lip service: After having stumbled upon Indian metal enthusiasts Albatross, the man did not hesitate and instigated a joint release with his sadly still widely overlooked band Vestal Claret. The Indian label's CD comes in a tastefully layouted gatefold papersleeve including a booklet an, of course Albatross' song cycle "The Kissing Flies" as well as a longtrack by the American party.
The Intro "Wither" (some acoustic boredom by Rat King's Murari Vasudevan) segues into straight Eighties banger "Uncle Sunny At The Tavern", an oddball horror story in the vein of Mercyful Fate, not least due to Biprorshee Das' theatrical singing. Both guitarists love their leads, so comparisons with the Great Dane and his henchmen are quite justified. Ten-minute highlight "Kissing Flies" shows Wolf's Niklas Stålvind as a guest in dialogue with the front man. The musical fundament is comparatively unassuming, maybe apart from some prominent fretless bass parts that establish a distinguishable motif. Riju's remarkable, low buzz are also the icing on the exceptionally sinister cake which is "From Ashes Comes Life". Here, we hear another vocalist (screamer) as well, namely The Demonstealer from Indian colleagues Demonic Resurrection. Perhaps thanks to their relative isolation, Albatross generally sound rather original. As compared to their debut "Dinner Is You", the music seems more dynamic in terms of tempo and mood, thus giving the impression of some kind of mini opera. With their raw, yet crafty style, the group should be well received in Europe, given the current "retro" climate within the metal scene.
Vestal Claret, though, are able to top Albatross' contribution. Their 18-minute piece takes all the time it needs to really get going: At first, Swanson appears to evoke a black mass, then clean guitars give way to distortion. The trio sounds close to epic doom now, yet with less pathos than true gothic flair, which has always been one of the group's main characteristics. The lyrics remain cryptic as usual, and Tuozzoli's leads are more than just a bit touching at times. Come half time - you almost expected it - Vestal Claret become faster, and because of their simple riffing alongside eerie chorus vocals sound very British - yet finally, the threesome find their way back to where they came from, resulting in an overall hypnotic, compelling composition that whets your appetite for a complete album ... by both groups, mark you.
words by Andreas Schiffmann