PICK OF THE WEEK: Blazes stoked, Ruby the Hatchet leave psyche dents on ‘Fear Is a Cruel Master’

Photo by Don Vincent Ortega

People fear change for any numbers of reasons, probably the largest of which is piercing a comfort zone. Many of us get caught in routines, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a great way to keep your wheels spinning in the mud. Breaking out of that and growing beyond your stagnation can be a little scary, but it’s the only way to realize the potential you may have for even greater things.

Speaking of which, Ruby the Hatchet aren’t ones to rest on their achievements and continue to stoke the same fire, and that is apparent with “Fear Is a Cruel Master,” their awesome new record. This is their fourth full-length and first in five years since 2017’s “Planetary Space Child,” and what’s obvious from the first listen on is how much they’ve grown as players and expanded their vision. The band—vocalist Jillian Taylor, guitarist Johnny Scarps, bassist Lake Muir, drummer/vocalist Owen Stewart, keyboardist/organist Sean Kahn Hur—still create fiery, psychedelic sounds that’ll melt your eardrums. But they are a larger, more muscular version of what they were before, adding new twists, brandishing larger weapons, and sounding as good as they ever have before. And they were pretty damn good even before “Fear Is a Cruel Master” landed in our lives.   

“The Change” gets things started on a high and enthusiastic note, the band digging in deep, Taylor’s vocals completely in command. “I never wanted to change, so I just stayed the same,” Taylor calls over the chorus, a lash against stagnation as the band surrounds that with guitars galloping and the pace enveloping you. “Deceiver” is punchy with great energy, the verses driving hard, and the choruses paying off the energy. The soloing peels back your eyelids while dual guitars do a great job mounting an offensive before a lower-key and psychedelic heatwave brings things to an end. “Primitive Man” is a stomper with fiery energy, Taylor jabbing sarcastically, “Your ideas are not your own, he’s had them all somehow.” The guitars have a muscular Sabbath vibe, the organs swell and add to the humidity, and the final blows land with great precision. “1,000 Years” is a smoky ballad, opening with mournful guitars that water your eyes. The playing is moody and dark, and when Taylor howls, “And hell freezes over,” you feel it in the guts. Shadowy guitars bleed, Taylor wails, “I’m 1,000 years older,” and all elements duel, pulling your heart in a million directions.

“Soothsayer” begins with the bass plodding, warm sax giving off a nighttime vibe, and the leads searing. The chorus is simple but effective, the energy swells later, and the guitar work blazes, leaving behind a trail of ash. “Thruster” rumbles with psychedelic energy, the playing swaggering and showing off oceans of attitude. “Oh no, I hear them coming, tearing our lives to the ground, oh lord, they’ve got you running, but I don’t have time for that now,” Taylor scoffs, the guitars taking off and adding heavy bluesy energy. As the track goes on, Taylor calls, “Oooh, thruster!” which gets into your blood, the organs multiply their presence, and the guitars twist your nerves into a pretzel. “Last Saga” soaks in slower tempos and heavy emotion, Stewart taking the first verse, showing pipes that deserve more opportunity to counter Taylor’s power. They trade verses, each bringing their unique personalities as the sweltering playing amplifies, everything fires up, and the embers grow hotter and more intimidating, finally melting into the dark. Closer “Amor Gravis” jabs with electric riffs and a pulsating tempo that reeks of Deep Purple and Uriah Heap (they cover “Easy Living” in their live set). “Looking back, I never knew the truth, looking back, I never knew you,” Taylor calls as doom and blazing combine. The soloing takes off and chars, making your adrenaline rush, Taylor returns to the chorus that spirals out, and the final moment dissolve into you mind, leaving mystical vibes behind.

Ruby the Hatchet show amazing growth on “Fear Is a Cruel Master,” proving they don’t fear change and that strengthening their abilities makes them a bigger, better band. Having had a chance to see them in the flesh a couple months ago, they are turning into an incredible force, one that already showed great promise on their previous records and are paying that off big time on this awesome album. We have lived through turmoil, tumult, and terror, it has not gotten the best of us, and Ruby the Hatchet prove that testing oneself in the worst of times can help us come out stronger than we ever imagined.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/rubythehatchet

To buy the album, go here: http://lnk.spkr.media/ruby-the-hatchet-fear

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.