Maybe it’s a lockdown thing as self-confinement injects a mellowing effect on my musical pursuits… Maybe I’ve just been forced to soften the edges of my musical horizons to have any hope of playing heavy metal on the collective house airwaves and not instantly asked to shove my extreme (or just plain irritating) tastes back unto the underworld from whence they came. I’m not quite sure the doom-gilded stoner metal of Pale Divine helps my cause but there is an undeniable groovy edge to this Pennsylvania band you can’t help think would have a wider appreciation even though many proponents of the doomy end of the stoner genre have – with a few obvious exceptions – stayed firmly underground in its own distorted, swampy mire.
Pale Divine are clearly one of the stalwarts of the scene that have never quite muscled into the next phase of their fan base evolution despite having an undeniably individual approach and a solid repertoire. Now on their sixth album since 2001, you can pretty much pick any one of them to start your investigations and you’ll find plenty to get your teeth into. Pale Divine’s distinguishing mark is that there is a distinctly metal edge – particularly on this latest platter where the stoner fuzz far more evident on some of the band’s previous releases seems to have been airbrushed into the background. This has coincided with a renewed spirit of adventure that has led the band into some welcome new pastures, as well as the obvious bedrock provided by 70s psychedelic rock and chugging Sabbathian doom.
What’s so great about Consequence of Time is that Pale Divine – who, in a genre that sometimes seems to merge into one even before you’re well, er stoned, stand out as having their own undeniable sonic brand – manages to keep things fresh as it flirts with early 80s metal (or at least late 70s, so I’m not offending anyone by acknowledging that anything produced with a guitar and amp after 1979 is worthy of our attention here!) and sometimes, oh alright let’s just admit it, even flirts with NWOBHM… The new vigour to test out boundaries is more than ably assisted by the addition of new blood – a second vocalist which means the twin pipes of Greg Diener and now Dana Ortt now elevate the vocal harmonies to new ethereal heights as well as lifting the bands purposeful melodic edges.
There are plenty of tracks here which nurture the old Pale Divine DNA – the chugging Tyrants & Pawns and the rocking title track just to prove to old fans the band has still got what it takes to roll with the rock. But the new evolution of Pale Divine is present in the excellent early Priest-worship of Satan in Starlight, the soaring vocals and lead guitars of Broken Martyr and the show stopping 70s prog bliss of Saints of Fire that reminds me very much of Swedish prog space cadets Hällas. By the way, if you like the sound of this, definitely check out the slightly more rocky, slightly less stonery, Beelzefuzz – where three out of four of Pale Divine’s current line-up used to play…. In the meantime, let it be said that this re-energised version of Pale Divine feels like everything present in the old incarnation of the band and more.
(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)