Confessor Unraveled

After an almost 15-year hiatus, North Carolina’s Confessor return with not only one of the year’s best albums, but also the finest group effort to date. Mind you, this erstwhile outfit released only one album and an EP in the early ’90s before going belly-up, but Unraveled is unquestionably innovative doom metal with mathematical tendencies. With Alice in Chains on his iPod, main throat Scott Jeffreys rightfully makes opening tracks "Cross the Bar” and "Until Tomorrow” bleed with definite overtones of Dirt-era AIC. Jeffreys is careful, however, to restrain his freakishly powerful vocals with lots of regular mid-range notes before breaking out into his signature caterwauls. "Wigstand” dips into an older Abdullah well with lots of cymbal flourishes by drum dynamo Steve Shelton. By the middle of the album and the thrashier "The Downside,” Jeffreys sounds hauntingly like the distinctive vocal harmonies between AIC’s Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell, which shows Confessor’s new-found reliance on the vox to prove their point. The algebraic interplay between Shelton, guitarist Brian Shoaf, and bassist Cary Rowells is as eclectic as it always was, but nowadays this style is more accepted and, naturally, Confessor redefine the subgenre. "Sour Times” (the same from their new EP) is one of the strongest tunes, with the most Solitude Aeturnus influence via Jeffreys’ Robert Lowe-ish vocal soaring. "Hibernation” hearkens back to the more difficult metal of their humble beginnings, and "Strata of Fear” features a divebombing, Obituary-like guitar solo. Amazing and enlightening, Confessor offer intricate time changes for slide-rule enthusiasts, and the cold fact that if Layne Staley were still alive, he couldn’t make music as solid as Unraveled. (Season of Mist)