Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake (Tee Pee Records, 2015)

Throughout the last couple of years, I've read a lot about Philly's Ruby the Hatchet, but until a few weeks ago, I hadn't sat down to dig into any of their music. Luckily for me, their publicist, Carl Shultz, sent me a note to tell me the band might be up my alley. He was right.

Landing on record store shelves on Feb. 24 via Tee Pee Records, Valley of the Snake is Ruby the Hatchet's latest slab of atmospheric riff rock. The six-song adventure begins with "Heavy Blanket," a song with a rhythmic cadence that can best be described by having you imagine Conan the Barbarian sludging through knee-high snow. The riff madness continues on "Vast Acid," with guitarist Johnny Scarps and organist Sean Hur playing off each other with an effortless flair. Meanwhile, bassist Mike Parise and drummer Owen Stewart lay down a monster groove for vocalist Jillian Taylor to weave her soulful vocal melodies throughout the thick instrumentation.

Things get trippy on "Tomorrow Never Comes," the third cut on Valley of the Snake. Starting off with a sparse acoustic guitar, the song then gives way to a funereal doom riff, letting you know shit is about to go in a very different direction. Clocking in at close to nine minutes, the song is a slow burn, complete with Iommi-esque guitars and layered vocals that were made to be experienced through a good set of headphones.

The rest of Valley of the Snake doesn't disappoint. "Unholy Behemoth" and "Demons" continue the occult rock spirit of the earlier songs on the record. The ethereal title track closes the procession down in fine fashion, beautifully showcasing Taylor's ghostly vocals. Valley of the Snake is one of those records that has a definite beginning, middle, and ending. More bands need to take note of that these days.

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