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Shepherd : The Coldest Day

Shepherd is dead. For reasons best known to themselves, they've called it a day, but fortunately they've left this artifact behind. 'The Coldest Day' is IMO a better, more confident record than their acclaimed 2003 effort, 'Laments'. That first record had the goods alright, but 'The Coldest Day' wraps them in a shroud and throws 'em down like nobody's bidness.

With this go 'round the Shepherd dudes brought in their love of Zep-style 70s metal riffrock and the noise elements evident at the end of their first disc, sank them deep in a mournful tarn of Doom, and shook it all up, earthquake-style. The result is doom that is both better executed and more intense than their first album, especially the screaming, double-tracked vocals. This is also a concept album of sorts, as you can see from the song titles. Shepherd's lyrics examine the platform of western culture's Christian framework, showing how much of our daily life is still determined - unconsciously - by religion. If this reminds you of The Hidden Hand, then you're not alone. In fact, if you're a discerning listener you may recognize a certain guitar playing style as the album progresses, cemented by the guest vocals on Track 7. Yes, its none other than Wino himself, turning in another notable performance.

Hidden Hand enthusiasts, of whom there are more than a few, will dig Shepherd. But there are other elements at work here besides HH and even the traditional doom of The Obsessed, Internal Void, 'Sabbath, and Trouble. For one thing, there are times that Shepherd all-out rocks the digits on this one, like your favorite 70s hard rock heroes. For another, there's an 80s SST feeling lurking in the background, inspiring thoughts of the Minutemen, Black Flag, and Saccharine Trust. And lets not forget the true doom bands like Orodruin and Reverend Bizarre. And what about those noisy, hardcore yet bluesy vocals? Wow. This may seem to be all over the map, but it coheres remarkably well.

And then there's the last track, 'Doomsday'. Man, this one will give you the blues, even while you're grinning at the b-movie vocal narrative. Whereas the rest of the album rocks the doom, this is more sludgey, deathy and depressing: think Grief, Negative Reaction, Khanate, and Dystopia. It's awash in feedback and mood, and even sports an atmospheric sax, courtesy of German doom jazzers Bohren & Der Club of Gore. And keep listening.....there's a rockin' bonus track there at the very end.

The band may be dead, but adventurous doomsters will do well to check it out anyway. It's familiar enough to strike the chords you love, and different enough to sound fresh. So piss off the pigeonholers with the Teutonic doom madness of Shepherd. Because no matter what time of day it is, it's always a good time to Get Heavy.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Monday
2. Tuesday
3. Wednesday
4. Thursday
5. Friday
6. Saturday
7. Sunday
8. Doomsday

Duration : Approx. 66 minutes.

Visit the Shepherd bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Kevin McHugh
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