Released on Friday 1 September 2023.
Seasons: Vol. 1 (2023) is the second studio release from Ohio’s heavy/doom/sludge metal quartet Blessed Black. This three-song offering is the first of a series of EPs planned for 2023 and 2024 that marks a new chapter in the band’s career. This EP also features the debut of new guitarist Jake Stone, and finds the band exploring themes of existentialism, grief, healing, and rediscovery.
The band was founded in 2018 by vocalist and guitarist Joshua Murphy and drummer Ray Bates with original guitarist Chris Emerson and original bassist Jens Nielsen. Current bassist Brad Bellamy joined in late 2019 following Nielsen’s departure. In 2022 Chris Emerson departed and after a few months existing as a trio, the band decided to bring in good friend Jake Stone as a new permanent guitarist.
Musically Blessed Black are heavily influenced by bands like Black Sabbath, Danzig, Trouble, Roky Erickson, and Graveyard, to name a few. The outfit released their first EP Beyond The Crimson Throne (2020) followed by the single “La Brea” in 2021. The upcoming release marks a new era with Blessed Black’s newly established line-up and shift in direction to a sound which Murphy describes as what was originally intended when the band was created.
Seasons: Vol. 1 (2023) delivers deeply personal and emotional narratives across the tracks.
The EP opens with a spoken clip about change, in “Hellbender” (track 1). For a moment it felt like this might become Public Service Broadcasting meets Black Sabbath, but the bass rumbles and suddenly the band explodes into light with thick bluesy, doom-laden riffs, lashings of distortion and a 70s-esque organ.
This is by far one of my favourite releases of the year to date. The songs are layers, nuanced, packed full of character and played with intricate precision while also managing to feel loose and laid back.
Lyrically, the song is based on a conversation vocalist/guitarist Joshua Murphy had with his father who was batting cancer. Stating, “it focuses on how temporary life can be, and how easy it is to lose sight of what’s actually important in life.”
“Obsidian” (track 2) opens with a strong riff and a vocal performance that reminded me very much of Lightning to the Nations (1980)-era Diamond Head. The song sounds majestic! All the more remarkable and life-affirming given that the song explores the process of finding yourself again after experiencing tragedy, loss, and grief.
“Unable” (track 3) emerges from a gently fading organ note. A riff bubbles and percussion taps out the rhythm as the riff grows into a song. Murphy’s vocals still remind me of Diamond Head’s Sean Harris as he howls and croons over a relaxed bluesy beat. This song is about how hard it is to watch friends and loved ones lose themselves to addiction.
I love musical finds like this one. I love too this approach to releasing music across multiple EPs—push it out, agile style, when the songs are ready, rather than waiting a year to release a longer collection. Realise the value now.
Musically, I love this release—any musician will tell you the level of skill required to sound as loose and laid back as this. This is a fabulous EP, I can’t wait for the next one.
Review score: 95%
C-Squared contacted me inviting me to preview Blessed Black’s forthcoming EP, thank you. I have no connections to either C-Squared or Blessed Black. I’m not being paid to review this, but I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to C-Squared, and to Blessed Black for continuing to create fresh, exciting new music.
“This is a band with stunning technical abilities. The sheer wizardry that they bring to the foreground is fascinating and speaks to just how much hard work has gone into this record”8.5/10 Metal Injection
“The riffs are larger than life, the drums and bass give the tunes a strong backbone, and the vocals pack energy and emotion into every line sung.”5/5 Metal blast.net