Blackened doom rock merchants The Spirit Cabinet have managed to splice two very different and appropriate meanings into their band name. Yes, it refers to some weird ouija board-style magic trick to communicate with the ‘other’ side. And also a dusty teak wood sideboard for storing away the daily tipple, one you might have found in your grandma’s house – at least houses owned by the type of grandma who can still remember the war (that’s the Second World War, I mean, rather than Operation Desert Storm). But, for the first couple of tracks at least, you’d be forgiven for thinking someone had been raiding granny’s spirit cabinet stash on their way to the recording studio.
My confusion began with the opener which has a refrain that could have been taken off a Blondie album with a bit of nodding pub rock thrown in – and all sung in the style of The Cult sound clashing with Pentagram. It’s a mish-mash of hooks and stomping vocals that’s all a bit weird and disorientating at first. Am I hearing ‘Atomic’ played backwards in their somewhere? The problem is that, after racing through Bobby Liebling does 70s pub disco rock, we’re onto the second track, a slightly directionless – and darker – affair but for all that it’s probably the weakest of the album. Not looking good because at this point I really don’t know what in hell’s name is going on. Clearly this lot are chucking in some fairly decent, straight up metal, mixed with doom, black metal and psychedelic rock – but someone needs to put down the sherry and pull things together or granny will start getting angry.
But, wait, somewhere in the middle of the third song – the title track – something interesting starts to happen. A nice twist with a little bit of black (metal) magic perhaps? Well, that shouldn’t be surprising with members of Urfaust and Cirith Gorgor represented here as well as several from doom metal band Hooded Priest and folk metal oddballs Grimm. Suddenly I get the feeling that my initial concern that this was some ‘amusing’ side project gone wrong may have been misplaced. Maybe I should have realised sooner – the Dutch doomy black metal madness of Urfaust (also on Ván Records – home to bands like King Dude and, at least prior to the tragic end of the band, The Devil’s Blood as well as the more progressive end of the BM spectrum such as The Ruins of Beverast and Árstíðir Lífsins) should really have been enough to warn me that this was never going to be easy or straightforward despite the doom rock foundations this is built upon.
And once you’ve got used to the dominance of the heavy vocals, and once the effects of the back-to-basics production begins to warm up a little, it all starts to fall into place. The title track takes off with an excellent plodding chorus that brings the soaring spirit of traditional 80s metal with doom and black metal. It also demonstrates the perfect and varied doom talents of vocalist Snake McRuffkin’s (better known as Urfaust’s IX) and the ability of the band to meld that heavy 80s metal sound with something darkly occult ridden.
The next track, Hexenhaus, even sneaks in a bit of Candlemass but really is all about seventies Sabbath worship heavily weighted with a racing 70s occult rock. The Spirit Cabinet have an armoury of tweaks and twists here among the bewitching simplicity of a sound that will probably appeal to fans of the 70s doom (from Black Sabbath to Reverend Bizarre), fist pumping 80s rock and metal (Danzig and The Cult) and the latest round of ‘occult’ rock. It might even appeal to fans of Volbeat (can anyone explain the success of that band to me, please?).
In short, Hystero Epileptic Possessed has some depth and well worth pressing through any feelings of doubt. The final track Convulsions is another highlight of an album which I thought, overall, was initially a lot more hard work than it needed to be. But that I ended up thinking is going to press a lot of buttons across a broad section of metal fans and I even warmed up to the first couple of tacks (or at least the first one) with a few full spins. A cool and varied sound from a band bringing a fresh perspective on one or two slightly oversubscribed genres. And just like cheap sherry, it gets better with each hazy glass. Granny will be pleased.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)