The website claims that no amps or guitars were used on the album, just electric bass, but this is nothing like a Primus or King's X or Victor Wooten release. You'd really never know it was all bass, if I hadn't just told you. There seems to be a theme or storyline to the album, but whatever it may be is incomprehensible from listening alone. If not for the occasional sound effects of sirens and distorted chatter, one would think this was a tale of the old West. Most often, the moody, instrumental stretches evoke Ennio Morricone and squinty-Clint-Eastwood imagery. On each of these tracks, 413 places you all alone inside wide open, textured audio landscapes.
The returns to metal form often work too, especially as counterpoints to the ambience. The album's biggest, near-fatal flaw is in the lead vocals. The clean and backup voices are fine, but the majority of the time, 413's lead vocals are an unlistenable bleat. There are moments where Pisabarro aspires to the powerful aural blasts of John Baizley of Baroness, Chuck Billy of Testament, or Jocke Gothberg of Dimension Zero, but mostly, his voice comes across as a teenager throwing a tantrum. Where he may be going for *dark and tortured*, all I'm hearing is, "Mom, I told you to stay out of my room!" This strained, screamy vocal style seems to be in vogue, especially amongst a certain breed of contemporary Icelandic metal, but needless to say - - it's not a style that I endorse.
It's unfortunate, because in every other way, "Path to Hocma" is a fascinating, bold, revolutionary success. If you enjoy/tolerate the "You stepped on my video game controller!" vocal style, and you don't mind musical experimentation and drastic vibe changes, then this is an album you need to hear. David Pisabarro has shown himself to be a producer possessed of talent and vision.
But hey, what do I know? I heartily recommend that you sample this album for yourself.
Download for free at: http://www.the-413.com/web/2010/10/path-to-hocma-available/ and donate if you can.