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Ruby The Hatchet – Fear Is A Cruel Master Award winner

Ruby The Hatchet
Fear Is A Cruel Master
by Gary Hernandez at 17 October 2022, 3:02 AM

It has been five long years since we have had some fresh material from RUBY THE HATCHET. For the uninitiated, RUBY THE HATCHET is a Stoner/Psych quintet out of New Jersey, US. They formed circa 2011 and have five albums under their belt including a new release, “Fear is a Cruel Master,” due out on October 21, 2022 on Magnetic Eye Records. Every one of their albums, including their self-titled and hard to find album from 2011, is a gem. “Fear is a Cruel Master” maintains that track record and sees the band leaning into all of their strengths from Jillian Taylor’s unique vocals to Lake Muir’s consummate bass performance; from infectious Stoner riffs to Hammond-inflected Doom marches. I’m tempted to say this is their best album to date except for the fact that I love so many of their other releases. Let’s call it a five-way tie for first.

Fear is a Cruel Master” comprises eight tracks and has a runtime of 43 minutes. There are no interludes or acoustic pit stops, just solid Stoner and Psych throughout. The album kicks off with “The Change.” A lot of reviewers love this track, but I struggled with it. The overdubbing of Taylor’s already fine vocals just seems like they were trying too hard to appeal to a mainstream audience. I like my RUBY THE HATCHET on the raw side, which, thankfully, the rest of the albums delivers on.

Deceiver,” the second track, brings us back to essential RUBY THE HATCHET with heavy riffs and Hammond support reminiscent of Jon Lord. I mean some keyboard and synths come across as superfluous accents — Sean Kahn Hur, on the other hand, performs his instrument like an axe. “Deceiver” clocks in at over six minutes, giving every member ample space to show their wares. It’s tracks like this that really highlight what a great band RUBY THE HATCHET is. While Jillian Taylor’s vocals are always distinctive, every member just delivers. I especially love the rhythm section of Owen Stewart (drums) and Lake Muir (bass).

Next up is “Primitive Man” which is another stellar track, this time showcasing Johnny Scraps (guitar) just getting down and dirty. “1000 Years” slows the tempo to a bluesy Doom pace and gives us time catch a slight breather. With track five, side two on vinyl, the band taps into a blues Psych vibe which recalls URIAH HEEP sans the vocal harmonies. Following is “Thruster” which also features as a great video.

The final two tracks, “Last Saga” and “Amor Gravis,” are two of my favorite tracks on the album. “Last Saga” puts Owen Gray on vocals. The emotive strain in his voice is palatable and when paired with Taylor the overall song unfurls like BOC’sThe Last Days of May.” Epic and moving. And the final solo almost made me weep. Too good. I should also note that Paul Ritchie (from another Jersey band, THE PARLOR MOB) provides guitar support on “Last Saga” as well as “The Change.” As for “Amor Gravis,” it pulls together everything that makes RUBY THE HATCHET great—Doom inflections, Stoner riffage, haunting vocals, and, again, that rhythm section.

I have never met a RUBY THE HATCHET album that I didn’t love. Do yourself a favor and hunt down their S/T album. Play it through and be amazed—raw, essential. And then listen to “Fear is a Cruel Master” and there it is again, that same visceral and haunted core. I should also note the production values for RUBY THE HATCHET releases have always been supreme. No exception with this release. It’s great to see RUBY THE HATCHET back and as vital as ever.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1.  The Change
2.  Deceiver
3.  Primitive Man
4.  1000 Years
5.  Soothsayer
6.  Last Saga
7.  Thruster
8.  Amor Gravis
Jillian Taylor – vocals
Johnny Scarps – guitar
Lake Muir – bass
Owen Stewart – drums, vocals
Sean Kahn Hur – keyboards, organ

Guest musician
Paul Ritchie (GODS, THE PARLOR MOB) – added guitar on “The Change,” “Last Saga”
Record Label: Magnetic Eye Records


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Edited 06 June 2023

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