Metal is already a bit of a strange genre in the music world, but it is astounding how some bands manage to create metal that is sonically in line with the genre’s sound, and yet take a completely twisted, sideways approach to things. One prime example of this is the legendary Slough Feg, a band that has come up with some strange melodies in their time, but is undeniably heavy metal. In a similar sense, fellow Californian’s Hot Fog are definitely a little bit different from the crowd, and it is likely that Mike Scalzi and co. are a primary influence on the band. Everything from the band name, album title, artwork, and even song lengths (ranging from 2 minutes to 9), show that there are no boundaries for Hot Fog. There is another side of this band, however, which is the stoner metal/rock influence. This isn’t a subgenre I’m terribly familiar with, but Hot Fog definitely brings out elements of that sound.
The only element of this album that might be a bit inaccessible is the vocal performance. Frontman Tim Mitchell definitely has the ability, but his voice is a bit outside the norm for traditional heavy metal. Besides having a bit of a unique tone, he actually sounds like he’d be more comfortable in a band like Priestess. The songwriting on “Secret Phantasies of the Dragon Sun” is a mixed bag, largely alternating between the aforementioned traditional heavy metal and stoner metal. Tracks like “Dawn of the Falconer” and “Epoch of the Tyrant” are showcases of epic songwriting combined with simplistic, if a bit strange riffing and leads. The former song has a great chorus, with Mitchell reaching some of his best heights vocally. Just as quickly as they draw you in to this sound, Hot Fog will unleash their bluesier stoner influence on “Tonight (In The Night)”, and in parts of “By Sanity Denied”. This style is competently played, but can’t compete with the other tracks. The title track manages to pull the two sounds together, and for that reason alone, it is actually the most interesting track on the record. The lengthy “Agamemnon’s Gambit” is worth the 9-minute investment. This track gallops along at a classic metal pace, while also delivering a variety of twists and turns to keep things interesting for its duration.
With “Secret Phantasies of the Dragon Sun”, Hot Fog has delivered a bit of a bipolar album. The two styles played on this record are certainly not worlds apart, but they tend to alienate the listener who doesn’t enjoy both sounds. This frustration is compounded by the fact that a Slough Feg-esque style usually takes quite a few listens to truly get into. Nevertheless, it is worth spending that time because this album has plenty of interesting moments.
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"Dawn of the Falconer"
"Secret Phantasies of the Dragon Sun"
3.7/5 or 74%.
Written by Scott