Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Review: October 31 - The Fire Awaits You (Reissue)

October 31 were a vastly overlooked heavy metal band that came to light in the mid 90's out of Virginia. The band itself helped to breathe life into the blooming stoner/doom metal scene, which was just beginning to gain recognition in the underground, by contributing with a variety of inspired chugging riffs and eerie overtones while mixing up the sluggish monotony with thrash and heavy metal tendencies. Regrettably to this day the band remains lurking in the depths of the metal tombs, having amassed a small cult following. Recently revived and taken under the wing of Hell's Headbangers Records, October 31 are seeing a reissue of their first two albums as deluxe editions which include a variety of incentives that pressure purchase. Originally released in 1997 under R.I.P Records, does the reissue of The Fire Awaits You deserve your attention?

Genre: Heavy Metal
Release Date: January 21st, 2014
  1. The Warlock
  2. Salem's Curse
  3. The Fire Awaits You
  4. Prelude/Lost City
  5. Voyage to Infinity
  6. Day of the Saxons (Witchkiller Cover)
  7. Vindication
  8. A Million Goodbyes
Bonus: Voyage to Infinity Demo
  1. Voyage to Infinity
  2. The Fire Awaits You
  3. Child of the Damned
  4. When Darkness Covers the Sun (Warlord Cover)


Bonus Tracks: Previously Unreleased


                                                                      1. I Don't Know (Ozzy Osbourne Cover)
                                                                                     2. Public Enema Number One (Iron Maiden Cover)

Total Playtime: 1 hour, 08 minutes, 56 seconds

                                Official Website

Rating: 8.5/10







October 31 were a vastly overlooked heavy metal band that came to light in the mid 90's out of Virginia. The band itself helped to breathe life into the blooming stoner/doom metal scene, which was just beginning to gain recognition in the underground, by contributing with a variety of inspired chugging riffs and eerie overtones while mixing up the sluggish monotony with thrash and heavy metal tendencies. Regrettably to this day the band remains lurking in the depths of the metal tombs, having amassed a small cult following. Recently revived and taken under the wing of Hell's Headbangers Records, October 31 are seeing a reissue of their first two albums as deluxe editions which include a variety of incentives that pressure purchase. Originally released in 1997 under R.I.P Records, does the reissue of The Fire Awaits You deserve your attention?

Hell's Headbangers Records made the perfect judgement call with October 31's debut LP when they decided to reissue the album in its original form; the authentic vintage quality has not been compromised, and the 1996 Voyage to Infinity demo has been included along with two additional cover tracks. Presented in its original gritty and fuzzy glory, The Fire Awaits You would have been an instant classic had it gained more recognition earlier in its lifetime rather than later. The content has the feel and sound of classic material, the kind that would play perfect on vinyl in the setting of a dark, shadowy cabin deep in the woods. It's really unknown how far the influence of the group reached, but other content brought to mind during a play through include both HHR's own Acid Witch and Iced Earth.

The audio quality is thick with treble and congested with fuzzy distortion that entraps the instruments and prevents them from becoming plagued with the overused echoes that pervaded death metal in the 80's and 90's. Though as gnarled as the condition of the record comes off, it never hinders the instruments in any aspect except for the bass which remains a muddled swamp of writhing thumps in the background. The only other qualm with the recording is that the drums sit a little too far into the background, the attention of the listener is most often drawn to the guitar and vocal tracks. This itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the aforementioned tracks are the highlights of the record, but the drums do have an interesting variety of patterns to offer up.

At the time of recording, October 31 consisted of three members on The Fire Awaits You; Jim Hunter on bass, Brian Williams on guitar and the illustrious King Fowely of Deceased on vocals, drums and keyboards. The band decreased from two guitarists down to one, which lead to the overlapping in rhythm and lead guitar tracks on songs such as "The Fire Awaits You" and "Prelude/Lost City"; this feature neither presents any issues nor causes the material to sound cluttered at any point, there is always a decent amount of empty atmosphere. In many instances the rhythm guitar work bleeds smoothly into a cauterizing solo that is sure to assist in summoning demons straight from the fiery pits of hell. The diversity and range of the guitar styles and riffs is impressive; the audience will find themselves enjoying a slow headbang and maybe a bong rip to the chugging doom riffs in "Salem's Curse", "The Fire Awaits You" and "Prelude/Lost City" just as easily as they will enjoy windmilling to the thrash riffs and insane hammer-on/pull-off solos in memorable instant-classic songs like "The Warlock" and "Voyage to Infinity". Tricks and treats abound in this Halloween/horror inspired album, the guitar magic doesn't simply stop there but it also adds in dissonant picking to spice things up with a ghostly overtone in "Prelude/Lost City" and "The Fire Awaits You". The guitar compositions are never recycled and are constantly incorporating innovative, ear catching rhythms and spellbinding fret work.

Fowely brings along his signature gritty clean heavy metal vocals which have a captivating essence to them that add a level of depth to his lyrical storytelling. Aside from the guitar riffs, the vocals and storytelling capabilities in this content really makes the album. It's easy to hear the passion and thought that the vocalist put into each track, from the enchanting whispers in "Salem's Curse" to the elongated notes held in "Prelude/Lost City" and the rocking ode to old school heavy metal cover "Day of the Saxons". It would be impressive to see Fowely pull these vocals off live while pummeling away at the drums as he does on the album, the drum beats never typically rest on the same set of beats for more than ten or twenty seconds; he uses a variety of thrash beats, blast beats and heavy metal rhythms that keep the backdrop changing consistently. "Vindication" is a true showing of drum progression with its many rolls and tom-tom/hi-hat combinations. While Foley also throws keyboards into the mingle they are rarely heard, only popping up predominately in "A Million Goodbyes" and "Prelude/Lost City", where they don't do any favors or cause any hinderance to the atmosphere of the record. If used more efficiently, the keyboards could have added a lot more to the content than what there is.

Overall, The Fire Awaits You is an amazing release with a plethora of momentous tracks; after hearing the album who could forget such instant classics as "The Warlock", "Salem's Curse" and "The Fire Awaits You"? Other honorable mentions include "Voyage to Infinity" and the eight minute epic "Prelude/Lost City". Immense props to Hell's Headbangers Records for not touching the vintage sound, either. The inclusion of the Voyage to Infinity demo makes this reissue a must have for enthusiasts of horror inspired bewitching metal, as the demo has only previously appeared on the original demo cassette release and re-release of the Visions of the End EP. The extra two cover tracks, "I Don't Know" and "Public Enema Number One" are more take 'em or leave 'em types, but they haven't appeared on any other October 31 release to date despite the fact that they sound older than the demo itself. Save some that cash your grandmother gave you at Christmas and pick this release up exclusively from Hell's Headbangers in January!

Digital Download Provided by: Hell's Headbangers Records

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