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  • Jonathan Widran

COUNT PARIAH, Hymns For Heathens

Though Hymns for Heathens, the aggressive, blistering, utterly cathartic, action packed and provocatively titled second EP from Count Pariah, dropped in September, the powerhouse Knoxville, TN band has truly created the perfect October soundtrack.

While they’re all doting dads who pay lip service to “making music suitable for fans of all ages,” they stir up the perfect fiery Halloween-ready brew with references like “this house is haunted” and “it’s in the walls. . .it’s in my skin” on the edgy, hard chugging lead single (reflecting their trademark lyrical and musical aesthetic) “Paranoia,” symbolic mentions of vultures and crows in the alternately brooding, then exploding “The Vulture” and a city full of angels and demons (the booming pain and rage-filled “City of Strife.”

Clearly, a thematic tie in to the spooky ghoul-filled holiday was the last thing on the mind of visceral, pour out as much hurt and anger as possible lead singer James “Shibby” Croft, guitarist Jason Breland, bassist Dustin Barousse and drummer Adam “BiRD” Tilley. They're speaking more universally, crafting classic catharsis for any time of year and any kind of hellish relationship or life situation. And damn if Croft doesn’t seem to be channeling Kurt Cobain and those grunge legends. These guys make you feel every ounce of betrayal and hurt, and wake up our sleeping hearts just as we were about to let bygones be bygones.

The songs without demon-esque references are just as potent, starting with the hypnotic, funk-rocker “The Source” (which asks point blank “What drives you to hate me/Through the pain and the suffering”) and including the intriguing closer “Sanity’s Border,” which begins as an acoustic ballad (showcasing the sweeter, wistful side of Croft’s voice) before exploding organically into a blistering fire where we’re slyly advised “Don’t waste your life/Suffering designed” and reminded in life that sometimes, despite our best efforts, “the carnival of pain will only end in flame.” In interviews, the band says of “Paranoia” (which also has a compelling asylum based animated lyric video) that it was written from an aggressive and dark, uncertain time – “relatable to everyone who went through 2020 with us.”

That inspiration applies to each of these five amazing, impactful tracks. In less than 20 minutes, Count Pariah (named because they’re “kings of the outcasts” playing by their own rules will truly cleanse your soul. Just as traditional church hymns express worship, these Hymns for Heathens express and are designed to purge us of the darkness.


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