This Saturday night at Fitzgerald's, Houston's Venomous Maximus releases what is the best metal album to come out of Texas in a long, long time. Maybe too long. Beg Upon the Light has already begun to wash upon the metal music press in the past few weeks.
This is the band's first full-length LP, coming on the heels of last year's The Mission EP, and it's a fun, riff-heavy, assaultive party album, even when things are supposed to be scary. It's comparably longer than most local metal releases this year, coming in with ten tracks spread out over 46 minutes.
You can hear Beg Upon The Light at the band's Bandcamp site before the show this Saturday, which also features Mothership, Hamamatsu Tom and the Drink Tickers, and Brimwylf on the bill. Come early for Hamamatsu Tom and lose all bodily functions.
Beg Upon The Light was recorded at Origin Sounds with Craig Douglas and Mark Lopez. Douglas says that the sessions were mostly about capturing a performance in its raw state. Lopez helped with sweetening the harmonies, and Mark Kidney handled mixing later.
"We didn't want a record that was too polished, it would just be way out of character for the band. The sessions were about capturing a vibe than anything else," says Douglas.
It may not be polished, but it is still catchy as hell in places, like on "Dream Again (Hellenbach)" or the revamped "Give Up the Witch".
It's the smaller parts of the album that stand out -- the things that came along organically.
The album begins with the organ sounds of Beau Beasley, most widely known in Houston and outer metal circles for his Insect Warfare and the torrid Homopolice, among other noise projects. No one would have expected to him to now be a gigging organist.
"For the past year or so I've been locked in my house wood-shedding on the organ. A friend of mine gave me the organ one day cause he was moving and I totally fell in love with it," says Beasley, who had always enjoyed the deep organ grooves on Deep Purple and Uriah Heep's golden age discs.
"No one is really doing that sound these days and I figure it's mine for the taking," he adds, laughing.
Jo Bird of Two Star Symphony added violin to "Mothers Milk," one of the album's more witchy passages.
"Playing in the key of [lead singer] 'Gregg Higgins' was quite peculiar, but fun," she says. "They wanted me to come into the studio without hearing the song before hand. Weird creative sounds can come from that kind of process, and I respected that," she says.
"From what I heard in the studio I predict mass hysteria at the release," adds Bird. "Great hardworking guys, great fucking music."
Another quirky add to the album was the inclusion of Shay Prator's spoken vocals for "Moonchild". Prator had never done anything musically before entering the studio with the band. They wanted a few more sonic layers embedded in the album, and she fit the bill.
"I do scream a bloody scream in another song but that was just for fun," Prator says.
Overall, Beg Upon The Light is a much more aggressive version of Venomous Maximus. Bass and guitars are clearer and heavier, the drums melt all over the tracks. It's a great air-guitar album too. It's the record that Mastodon should have made after Blood Mountain, before going prog.
Higgins' Arthur Brown-style vocals make the band stand out from the usual barking and howling permeating most metal. Older metal cats have find this most refreshing.
Douglas says that he sees no limit to what Venomous Maximus could do in the coming years.
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"The first time I ever worked with Higgins, he was with this grind band from Victoria," says Douglas. "He told me -- way back in 2001 -- that he one day wanted to do a band like Venomous."
With Mothership and Hamamatsu Tom & the Drink Tickets, 8 p.m. Saturday at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, www.fitzlivemusic.com.