Horehound vocalist Shy Kennedy has become quite the mogul of the Pittsburgh metal scene, particularly in its vibrant doom corner, where she holds court not only as a performer but as an organizer of the Descendants of Crom festival and the owner of the interesting Blackseed Records, a label that is a mission for her as opposed to a mere business venture. Kennedy and her bandmates are in rapturous love with all sounds down-bred from Black Sabbath, and Holocene, Horehound’s sophomore effort, is but a long ode to that which is slow and profoundly heavy.
As with Horehound’s debut, sorrowful, gothic lyrics and Kennedy’s alternately despairing clean vocals and wrathful roars are at the fore. Quiet, dreamy interludes are jolted awake with piledriver chords that punch away at hopelessness as much as the verses wallow in them. Tracks such as “L’appel Du Vide” and album igniter “The Kind” exemplify this despite not one composition of the 43-minute, 6-song resembling anything but filler. All of the songs are lengthy and each is a journey in itself. Paradise Lost, Heavy Temple, and Sleep come to mind and are the catalyst for the band to come of age, Horehound reinterpreting all doom, stoner, and sludge through a lens crafted for the 21st century.
Soundscapes are achieved through tracks like “Sloth” in which Kennedy’s vocals unnervingly deepen as if possessed by angry, forsaken spirits who refuse to go the light. One must also acknowledge the musicianship at hand here, penultimate cut “Anastatica” and grand finale “Highball” serving as a showcase for the Paul Chain-borne riffs and soloing of Brendan Parrish, the deft drumming of Mastodonian J.D. Dauer, and the Butlerian Entwhistler fingers of Nick Kopco, all four individuals within the band at once shining singularly and as part of thunderbeast of an ensemble.
Horehound are defining Pittsburgh doom metal for the 2010’s as authoritatively as Dream Death did in the 80’s and Penance did in the 90’s. Harboring the aural equivalent of their namesake plant’s properties, Horehound are flowering invasively and medicinally, not because you want to taste their bitter leaves, but because you need your rage to be soothed by its leaves, because you need their root to help you digest what life forces down your gullet, because you need the worms of vice expunged from your being.