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Shepherd – First Hand Award winner

First Hand
by Mark Machlay at 05 January 2021, 6:43 AM

Heaviness and atmosphere is thick with doom rock trio SHEPHERD. The Denver, Colorado band brings extreme heaviness back into the doom metal fold while still keeping the fuzz and buzz guitar sound that has become popular of the genre lately. Consisting of Holden Sims on bass and vocals, Austin Garrett providing guitar and backing vocals, and Nathan Bilodeau supplying the heavy, grooving beats on the drums, the boys from the “Mile High City” released their first EP, fittingly titled “First Hand” last November 20th in the cursed year that was 2020. Pulling inspiration from many alt-metal pioneers such as the DEFTONES, MASTODON and TORCHE  along with adding infusions of the outlaw country and folkloric chanting, the result is pummeling loudness while sonically captivating, taking the listener on a bit of spiritual journey. They seem to be an attempt to bring back the occultish feeling that would come along with doom metal and shedding the shock and grandeur that has seeped into the style of the years.

The opening pair of tracks, “Sea Cave” and “Chariot” sets the mood pretty well with atmospheric, slow, dergy, heaviness, similar to MASTODON. Holden Sims voice and the effect it provides reminds me a lot of Sully Erna from GODSMACK especially when you think back to the song “Voodoo”. It has this ethereal, ghastly effect on the mix, making me think back to another album this year from HILLS LIKE EYES in which you follow a journey of a man in a shamanistic, ritual-like way. But the two tracks also have moments in which a more modern metal sound shines through with a bit of swamp metal and groove metal thrown in as well. The album has a lot of room to breathe in, delving into long instrumental sections that evoke post metal style.

Although, technically the album is an EP, with the length of the tracks, it could be considered a full length from, clocking in at nearly 30 minutes for the whole package. There is a great amount of flow between the tracks, allowing the listener to get lost and forget they spent nearly half an hour listening to one EP. It has a lot of crossover appeal, as it courts many different genres in its little runtime. Of the album the band comments. “It has great potential because it appeals to stoner and doom genres, and serves as a crossover into the mainstream”. I have to agree, “First Hand” incorporates a lot of influences and is unique in that is presented in an inoffensive package for those that aren’t particularly fans of doom or stoner rock. It even has two purely instrumental tracks in “Wendigo” – about the mythical evil spirit of folklore and “Vestigial” – the latter technically has chants but no real lyrics – for those that want to indulge simply in the atmosphere SHEPHERD create. The band draws more from Greek myth with “PERSEPHONE” sending the listener soaring above the clouds before you come crashing down with lightning fast riffage. Admittedly, it sounds a bit disjointed at times, but when listened as a whole, SHEPHERD’s debut is a really strong, doom metal album that has the potential for wider success.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Sea Cave
2. Chariot
3. Wendigo
4. Vestigial
5. Persephone
6. The West
Holden Sims – Vocals & Bass
Austin Garrett – Guitar & Backing Vocals
Nathan Bilodeau – Drums
Record Label: Destruent Records


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