The House of Capricorn – Sign of the Cloven Hoof …   Leave a comment

With an album name like that, one expects The House of Capricorn, a peculiar stoner metal band from Auckland, New Zealand, to be an occult rock number with lots of references to the Devil and Ozzy-inspired vocals. But the music made by them is nothing like that, and in fact, it’s nothing like anything in particular. It’s got influences by the dozen and the band wears them all on their sleeve – a fact that helps identify where they come from, but doesn’t provide relief in getting used to their sound.

So the mix is this: murky, almost sludge-like guitars lumber onwards on top of fat bass thundering on in the background. Couple that up with a general swamp-stoner attitude that reminds you of all-too-green bogs, adequate (yet none too special) drumming, and you’ve got the music down. The part that The House of Capricorn both define themselves and lose a point is the vocals. The vocals carry the attitude of a bass guitar, in that, they set the mood and contribute to the overall music rather than stand out. The vocals croak rather feebly and muddle the mood a little, which is good, but you can’t distinguish lyrics and at times it can be a bit overbearing.

The album is also full of surprises, a positive that does get weighed down by the fact that it’s a little too long. “Aurora Funeralis” kicks it off with a dark, ambient/sludge intro, that makes you expect something visceral and, well, sludge-like. Nope, instead, The House of Capricorn follows that up with “Crowned and Drained”, a rather brightly-mooded, groovy, stoner metal piece that rises, falls, crashes, crawls and entertains. Then comes “A Devilish Manifesto”, a hard-hitting, fast-paced rollercoaster ride that has some incredible pounding moments. “Archways” is one of the darker songs on there, and it’s a wonderful one indeed. It cuts close to sludge metal at times and is moody as hell. As if to give us a whiplash, then comes “Old Redhook”, which I can only define as a fishing trip song performed by stoner metalheads. Trust me, it has that “fishing trip” feel, in that old boats, patience, cold sandwiches and the like pop up in your head.

But the band decides to switch it up right there and then, and throws up the incredible, swing-jazz influenced “A Candle for the Morning Star.” This song is amazing! It’s subtle drumming, thundering guitars, foot-stomping rhythmic structure, rise-recede texture… the best song on here, easy. “Hymn” is another sludgy/ambient interlude song, which is followed up with “Sol”, another bright-mood song that grooves on and is a solid stoner rock number with a very nice chorus.

It is, unfortunately, here that the album starts to drag a little bit. The songs are good, but they are a bit too stacked, they melt into one another. I’ve listened to this album for months and I still have to re-focus after “Sol” when I listen to it. Following those two with what should have been the actual song “Hymn” melted into, is “The Inveterate”, a stomping, bittersweet stoner metal piece that showcases the band’s already-well-established knack for groovy pastures and has this amazing bridge section that’s all about the fat bass and the droning guitar solo. But it’s still a bit excessive, you’ve been there before on this album. Then comes “Lord of Light and Pride” which is mostly what came before. It’s The House of Capricorn, it’s good after you get used to the album, but doesn’t really have anything necessitating it’s existence in this album because you’ve heard this song at least three times by now. Then comes “Under Southern Skies” a droning, churning monolith that shakes it up a little, but not enough to break the album’s lethargy – if anything, the word “stagnation” comes to mind. It is by no means a bad song, it’s just not as solid as others on the album and would find a better place in another full-length.

“Claws of Fog” breaks this trend slightly with it’s noticeably darker mood, heavy metal-like structures and swampy feel. This is one of the best songs on the album, and would make a great closer right after “Hymn”, if you ask me. It broods, it grooves, it stretches on, it does everything and kind of makes you wish all the songs were this moody. It’s one of the best tracks of the album. And, with “Awakening to Shrinking Light”, the album comes to a close. Honestly, this song always flies over my head and is sort of unnecessary being there. It’s one of those songs where there’s nothing wrong with the actual song and everything’s in place, it just feels like it’s missing that little bit of spirit to infuse it with some feeling.

I can, however, safely say that “Sign of the Cloven Hoof” shows off the potential The House of Capricorn harbors quite adequately, and it has brilliant moments. It is an album easily a few notches above the average of stoner metal, yet, it has flow issues and goes on for far too long. Despite these flaws, I doubt anyone giving this a listen (with an open mind in case of a lack of familiarity with stoner genres) will be disappointed. 8/10
Review Written By Sarp Esin

The House of Capricorn @ MySpace

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Posted May 26, 2011 by doommantia in The House of Capricorn

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