This is the bands 7th studio album and the follow up to 2016 “Mark of the Blade” and is out via Metal Blade Records.
The album title is a reference to the part of Hardin Valley, where vocalist Phil Bozeman grew up. Set against this backdrop, he approaches his subject matter unflinchingly, building upon everything that came before, making it clear that he has survived that which he was forced to endure and is not afraid to confront it.
"Phil has been upfront in his lyrics in the past about hardships he endured in his life as a child, and I believe with this record we tried to paint a better picture of that," says guitarist Alex Wade, who alongside his bandmates, stands a hundred percent behind everything their vocalist has to say. "I feel our music is Phil's release from his past, being able to get it out and speak about it, and hopefully anyone who hears it that may have gone through similar experiences can find some release in it as well.
There is a lot of darkness and this album and I think it is best described as we go through the songs.
The band are:
Phil Bozeman - Vocals
Ben Savage - Lead Guitar
Alex Wade - Rhythm Guitar
Gabe Crisp - Bass
Zach Householder - 3rd Guitar
Navene Koperweis - Drums (just for the album) formerly of Animals as Leaders and Animosity.
01. When A Demon Defiles A Witch
Starts out with a pretty sounding clean guitar passage before everything blasts off with heavy riffing, blast beats and Phil Bozeman laying it down.
I remember when the fire was security now it’s killing me
A wolf can’t hunt without its prey
So take me to my grave
The demons dance by the fireside!
But tonight they migrate to my bedside”
The choruses have a cool use of clean and heavy vocals played over one another to great effect.
There is a really effective bridge section that goes into ambient sounding instrumentation and clean vocals
"What has the world come to when a demon defiles a witch?
Nobody trusts a word I say
I can’t erase, these memories
But I will erase humanity
There is some impressive lead work and some complex riffing.
There have been a series of posts that Phil Bozeman posted via Instagram stories which explain the song meanings.Phil explained that the “demon” mentioned in the title is not referring to his stepfather, but instead referring to a personal demon named “Mycar” that Phil’s mother wrote about in her journal. She suffered from a myriad of serious mental issues, and Phil said that she was diagnosed as having 34 different personalities, which would all appear in her personal journal that she kept (even the handwriting would change with each personality).This song specifically references that demon “Mycar”.
Phil showed and read excerpts from his mother’s journal, focusing on a couple of lines where his mother explained that a demon named “Mycar” would sexually assault her in her bed, taking the physical form of Phil’s father.The title of the song actually comes from a line in his mother’s journal, where she describes the sexual assault:
“It takes on Gary’s bluish-gray body, a real physical body, a dead body raping me – a devil raping a witch”. (Gary was Phil’s father’s name).
The lines in the song’s pre-chorus are also taken from her journal:
“The incubus, it happens, no matter where I sleep in this bed, in my place, in his place, it still happens. I thrash from side to side yet it still happens. It hurts so bad, again and again. Burn the bed, yes, burn everything. Liar.”
When I first heard the album I just heard it as a death metal album (a good one) but upon exploration of the lyrics I realised just how intense and personal this album is.
02. Forgiveness Is Weakness
Kicks straight into it on this track and there is a distinct Lamb of God vibe to it, the vocals in particular.
“This is for my family
the ones who suffered with this
let us have this moment”
And then later“He’s finally dead"
I assume this one is about the stepfather and what he did to the family which will continue into the next song.
I really like this song a lot. It has a tempo that feels just a little too slow and gives it a real distressing vibe (not to mention an incredible low guttural growl from Phil).
Phil explained that this song is about a vivid dream he had when he was a young teenager about killing his stepfather, who he blames for his mother’s death from overdose. Phil also stated that the death of his stepfather was the only time he felt relieved by someone’s death.
"Sleep with one eye open
You have no idea what I'm capable of
Keep claiming holier than thou
My knife can stab more holes than you can count
How dare you sleep where a king once slept
And dry the tears of where his queen has wept”
This is one heavy song and I enjoyed (if thats the right word) a lot
04. Hickory Creek
Another clean guitar intro that slowly builds and I found there was a hint of Corey Taylor to Phil’s voice. This is the song that will no doubt be a point of contention to older fans as it is pretty much all clean vocals and there most mainstream song to date. Delve into the lyrics however and you will realise that this is still heavy as fudge.
"This path I walk is comforting
But now I'm left to sing this song alone
I'm fading faster now
It's time to walk away with nothing left
Nothing left in my soul
I'm fading faster now"
05. Black Bear
A touch of Nu-metal, as well as djent to this one
Phil explained that the black bear is one of the most dangerous predators in the animal kingdom, especially in the area of Tennessee in which he grew up in, and in that way, it is an “homage” to his home state.
He uses the predatory connotations of the black bear as a metaphor for his stepfather, who he blames for his mother’s death from overdose. He felt that his stepfather was the apex predator of the family, and more specifically, the household, preying on Phil’s mother who suffered from a myriad of serious mental issues.
"He has come for the blood of my only son
I can sense his heart beat slowly fade
The sound of my voice is his way to me
I buried my tongue with my family's bones"
06. We Are One
A faster pace to this tune with plenty of low end djent. Another one that has a very Randy Blythe delivery to the vocals
“And you’ll never know my name, you will never take that from me”
There is an At the Gates feel to some of the instrumentation (as well as the vocals) on this as well as a sludgy breakdown section.
07. The Other Side
Some mid-paced chug introduces this one before going into a faster pace
“Through all the hatred and pain I’ll stand by my brothers side
will overcome and make it out to the other side”
Another one that had more than a hint of Lamb of God (in a good way).
08. Third Depth
More clean vocals and this one had elements of Tool in both the instrumentation and vocals.
Phil explained that the title of this song refers to the basement of the house he grew up in. He said that he would spend a lot of time alone there while his mom would disappear for three or four days at a time, explaining that this song is about the thoughts that would stir in his head as a result, especially in reference to his hatred for his stepfather.
According to Phil, the verses mostly represent his thoughts from the past, while the choruses mostly represent his thoughts regarding the future.
“A fantasy awakes
A dark desire to watch you slip away into oblivion
I can't wait to see your flesh turn pale
When I hear the last breath you take fail”
"Even with you dead
I still feel the painIn my heart
things will never be the same
Now I must live out this dark fantasy
I am not the man I came to be”
A bleak song both lyrically and musically
Another faster paced one that I felt had hints of Gojira thrown in (especially the choruses). I really enjoyed the pace on this one.
“Help me, I’m begging and bleeding I need you now
Help me, Running away will get you found
Help me, Flesh and blood runs deeper than this
Help me, Help me find my way back home”
A pummelling song
10. Doom Woods
The last song on the album and a real highlight for me
Starting out with a very Toolesque, plodding drone like riff that creates a great sense of atmosphere. I really enjoyed the atmosphere on this track and I particularly enjoyed the drum fills throughout.
The song has a nice use of dynamics and a great use of melody in the chorus
“They say don’t walk to the darker side
But where the light shines, the devil is alive
I’ve seen hell through a child’s eyes
And I know in time, the devil I will find
The devil I will find”
Things fade out to the close of the album
There is a huge amount to enjoy on the album and, unlike a lot of music in the death metal scene, has a huge amount of depth, emotion and sensitivity. The album has a lot of dynamics throughout its duration and the lyrics, and real life subject matter, mark this apart from many of the bands contemporaries.
You can check out my video review of the album here -