Review: “The Burden Ov Faith” by Ov Sulfur
“I wanted to put something out there that was as blasphemous and heavy as it was thought-provoking; I just had no idea how many people felt the same way. It’s always been the same thing that’s inspired me – the terrible things that have been done in the name of religion. Even in Suffokate, I had songs like ‘Holiness is Next to Filthiness’ or ‘Not the Fallen.’ With this band, I wanted to push it more to the forefront. As a kid, I went to church, and I went down to Mexico with the church to do mission work. We were building a school for kids, and we were treated awful by the church staff that went down there with us. It was like being in a work camp, abusive. It was an eye-opener that pushed me to look at what I believed in. Then, doing research, seeing the manipulation, the constant re-writes and the awful stuff done in the name of religion, it inspired me to dig deeper and bring the atrocities to light. All I was doing was punishing my body in the gym. I decided I wanted to start making music again for fun, maybe jam with people, play locally – and then it became this. I had no idea that people would care, sure enough, I posted nothing more than a logo online and my phone died from all the notifications for two-and-a-half days in a row! If anything, I want to make people simply think for themselves. I hope that this album is another reason for people to drop down their walls and look beyond what they’ve been told or taught to believe in. I want you to question everything after you listen to this record.” ~ Ricky Hoover
After the resounding success of their 2021 debut EP “Oblivion” which at the time of writing has clocked up in excess of 2.8m Spotify streams alone while having guest appearances from Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying and Nick Arthur of Molotov Solution, catching the eye of a major label was never going to be an issue for Ov Sulfur. If anything the problem for the band, fronted by former Suffokate vocalist Ricky Hoover was going to be which deal with which devil the Las Vegas Blackened Deathcore collective were going to sign. They chose Century Media which enabled them to work with producer Morgoth Beatz (Winds of Plague, Scarlxrd) on their debut full length “The Burden Ov Faith“, having mixing and mastering done by Josh Schroeder (Lorna Shore, Tallah) with guitar and bass recordings done by former Machine Head and current Once Human guitarist Logan Mader. The band have described the album as sounding like arena Black Metal at points and that description is hard to disagree with, especially when their peers in Lorna Shore are playing huge venues and Century Media have other genre heavy hitters like Distant and Signs Of The Swarm on their label…
While opening cut “Stained In Rot” finds Hoover severing flesh from bone with his caustic firestorm of a low register and drummer Leviathvn decimating the weak with his artillery shelling like kit performance, however this is not Deathcore in its purist from. Hoover brings Slam vocal moments to some lethal breakdowns, there are tinges of both orchestration and programming – and – clean vocals from guitarist Chase Wilson. All of that not only confirms that variety is indeed the spice of life but also that the more melodic parts make the heavier parts that much more satisfying as they hit harder when the band circle back around, disposing of the notion that being restless and relentless is the only way to go. “Befouler” finds them joined by Alex Terrible of Slaughter To Prevail and while you might think that would be a firestorm of headbutting as two dragons of Deathcore go head to head, there are actually more clean vocal parts from Wilson to counter them and ensure that everything is in balance on the scales of justice. Chinks of light appear in the black clouds overhead with Melodic Death Metal guitars and cinematic orchestration on “Unraveling” which brings obvious comparisons to Lorna Shore. However Ov Sulfur are an entirely different beast when it comes to lyrical narratives with different ideals, hopes and nightmares. This one finds them joined by Taylor Barber of Left To Suffer, a man with a huge variety of guest appearances clocked up and the turbulent violence the band create on this apocalyptic soundscape is what they did on their debut EP on steroids.
“Death Ov Circumstance” is the stand out cut among stand out cuts of the opening half of the record, its dark cinematic orchestration and pile driving riffs giving it a grand and epic feel that is usually at odds with Deathcore as a genre. It sounds huge and catchy while also being aggressively violent, proving that styles can be successfully intertwined given the time, effort and vision. Often lyrics having a deeper meaning bring out an emotional quality in a vocal performance and with “Earthen“, Hoover is at his finest. The cut is one about watching his 16 year old nephew wither and die from cancer at 16, treatment including a bone marrow transplant failing to save his life. That exposes a vulnerability that gives the piece grit and integrity and while it’s another thunderously powerful rhythmic affair with dark synths and slick solos there is another level of depth here that isn’t always found elsewhere. After that combination of a harrowing and bludgeoning experience, “A Path to Salvation” offers a brief respite with 73 seconds of interlude that builds into “I Apostate” in stunning fashion. A powerhouse cut it shimmers like Gold reflecting the smallest amount of light in the darkest of corners, the layering of the clean and unclean vocals working incredibly well as Hoover gives us a shriller unclean offering before becoming the beast in the final moments.
Quite how Ov Sulfur managed to get Howard Jones of Light The Torch and formerly Killswitch Engage to lay down a guest vocal on “Wide Open” is a mystery but Jones clean vocals replace Wilsons to stunning effect as he contrasts the savage brutality Hoover is able to conjure perfectly. Again the orchestration makes this one sound huge, epic and cinematic while there is no soul selling for a radio single as it is just as heavy hitting at its heaviest points as any of the other cuts. The juxtaposition of melody and brutality within “The Inglorious Archetype” is arguably at its most intense although present throughout the record, the female vocals on this one adding a new dimension and dynamic to the cut, the depth and texture of which is incredible. Little nuances surface with each repeated listen that your brain simply didn’t hear on the previous spin as it was too busy telling your ear drums how much it loved something else. The extremes continue to push out with the album title track which finds both Kyle Medina of Bodysnatcher and Lindsay Schoolcraft formerly of Cradle Of Filth making their presence felt on a magnum opus of a track that approaches the seven minute mark and could happily go on for longer given the opportunity. Mid cut bombastic riffs and an almighty fire breathing death growl raise the hairs on the back of the neck while the sheer power of Schoolcraft’s voice is jaw dropping, her presence in Cradle Of Filth sorely missed. Is there going to be a better Extreme Metal album in 2023? The challenge has been offered and Ov Sulfur are a heavyweight contender for the crown [9/10]
1. Stained In Rot
2. Befouler (ft. Alex Terrible of Slaughter To Prevail)
3. Unraveling (ft. Taylor Barber of Left To Suffer)
4. Death Ov Circumstance
6. A Path to Salvation
7. I Apostate
8. Wide Open (ft. Howard Jones of Light The Torch, ex-Killswitch Engage)
9. The Inglorious Archetype
10. The Burden Ov Faith (ft. Kyle Medina of Bodysnatcher & Lindsay Schoolcraft ex-Cradle Of Filth)
“The Burden Ov Faith” by Ov Sulfur is out 24 March 2023 via Century Media