“I wanted to put something out there that was as blasphemous and heavy as it was thought-provoking; I just had no idea how many people felt the same way.” No one is more surprised at OV SULFUR’s rapid, deal-with-the-devil-esque ascent than frontman Ricky Hoover. In the space of a little more than a year, the Las Vegas blackened deathcore collective has burned as bright as a Norwegian church in the night.
Debut LP The Burden Ov Faith is the morning after that blasphemic blaze, as the sun rises to replace the luminescence and shine through ash floating like snow. It’s opulent in its cinematic beauty, yet with an underlying darkness that can never be washed from this place. Well, sort of. Ov Sulfur have made an epic call-to-arms, but it’s not to raise one’s torch as much as question why they would—less burn down any one church, more take down religion as a whole. It’s about to get goddamn apocalyptic.
It’s been percolating since before 2021’s debut EP Oblivion, back to when Suffokate made Hoover (and his massive stretched ears) a household name, and even before! “It’s always been the same thing that’s inspired me – the terrible things that have been done in the name of religion,” says Hoover. “Even in Suffokate, I had songs like ‘Holiness is Next to Filthiness’ or ‘Not the Fallen.’ With this band, I wanted to push it more to the forefront.”
Growing up in a Christian household shaped Hoover’s disdain for organized religion, and its history of hypocrisy became the frontman’s creative Morningstar. “As a kid, I went to church, and I went down to Mexico with the church to do mission work. We were building a school for kids, and we were treated awful by the church staff that went down there with us. It was like being in a work camp, abusive. It was an eye-opener that pushed me to look at what I believed in. Then, doing research, seeing the manipulation, the constant re-writes and the awful stuff done in the name of religion, it inspired me to dig deeper and bring the atrocities to light.”
Turns out the burning church is as much about illuminating as obliterating. Yet obliterate it does, starting with the slamming sulfuric firestorm of opener, “Stained In Rot,” which teases Hoover’s expanding vocal range via singing, in stark contrast to the gnarliest gutturals he’s conjured from his forked tongue. “Befouler” follows with technical death metal riffing and climaxes into an unexpectedly catchy chorus, before crumbling into a brutal breakdown featuring Slaughter To Prevail vocalist Alex Terrible. That Hoover keeps up with the likes of that masked madman, plus guests Taylor Barber (Left To Suffer) and Kyle Medina (Bodysnatcher) is impressive though not entirely surprising. That he holds his own on an album featuring Howard Jones (Light The Torch, ex-Killswitch Engage), however, is. Throughout and on the epic closing title track, his injection of melody is beautified by Lindsay Schoolcraft, formerly of Cradle of Filth.
OV SULFUR’s Century Media debut spans the stygian planets of deathcore, black metal, and metalcore, creating something as majestic as it is hook-laden. “It’s the EP on steroids,” says founding guitarist/vocalist Chase Wilson, joking, “I would almost call it ‘Arena Black Metal’ at points!”
Indeed, it does bring to mind corpse paint’s most successful breakouts, such as Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth and, yes, the aforementioned Cradle of Filth. To separate things, let’s call it “blast-phemous metalcore ov death,” highlighting OV SULFUR drummer Leviathvn’s penchant for thunderous blast beats. When held back, as on the war march churn of “Death Ov Circumstance,” it allows a brief reprieve. Such is nature of the diverse and expansive album crafted by the band—helped along by former guitarist Matt Janz and rounded out by bassist Ding—alongside producer Morgoth Beatz (Winds of Plague, Scarlxrd) and mix/master maestro Josh Schroeder (Lorna Shore, Tallah). The two split engineering of vocals and drums, respectively, with former Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader stepping in to capture the guitars and bass.
Wilson credits the production team with pushing OV SULFUR into new, unexpected dimensions. “The biggest surprise came when Ricky went in with Morgoth to record vocals,” Wilson recalls. “Initially, we were only going to have maybe three songs with clean vocals and once he started tracking, he obliterated our expectations with how powerful an actual singer he was! It changed the scope of the record altogether.”
It is the kind of evolution that engendered a song like “Earthen,” which simply couldn’t have rung true without the vulnerability that comes with crooning. The album’s centerpiece offers a pain and vulnerability rarely approached in this arena of heaviness. “’Earthen’ is about my nephew who died from cancer at 16,” says Hoover. “After failed bone-marrow transplants, he decided to stop and let it take its course. It’s about witnessing that and being there, holding him when he died. That song is very emotional for me.”
These are the kind of emotional exorcisms that Hoover almost missed out on. When he put down the microphone after Suffokate and picked up the straight razor as a professional barber, it was intended as a permanent break. Yet the devil would have his day once again. It was during the pandemic and the tedium of the worldwide lockdown that Hoover was inspired to conjure cacophony nearly a decade after his last album. “All I was doing was punishing my body in the gym,” remembers Hoover, of the pastime—nay, way of life—that gave him a monstrous body that intimidates as much as his abyssic growls. “I decided I wanted to start making music again for fun, maybe jam with people, play locally – and then it became this.”
“This” as in a band who’ve toured with genre stalwarts Lorna Shore, Carnifex, Whitechapel, Shadow of Intent, Signs of the Swarm, and As I Lay Dying. They’ve also won raves from pundits as diverse as Youtuber Nik Nocturnal, the Church of Satan (yes, that one), and the metal press at large. It’s staggering to think that with The Burden Ov Faith, OV SULFUR have only just begun.
It was a mere two years ago when Hoover and Wilson connected via a mutual friend. The former’s tech death desires faded as the group came into its own and began writing. Debut single “Behind the Hand of God” in February 2021 was an unholy warning of what was to come. The frontman’s low-register vocalizations bathed in a firestorm of blackened deathcore and black metal intents, soaring orchestration and unexpected vocal melodies. The response was nothing short of volcanic.
“I had no idea that people would care,” Ricky admits. “Sure enough, I posted nothing more than a logo online and my phone died from all the notifications for two-and-a-half days in a row!” The avalanche of excitement over OV SULFUR was shortly satiated with the band’s self-released first EP, Oblivion, which spelt out the blueprint for the sound of OV SULFUR to come. The same day marked a sold-out reckoning moment for the band at Las Vegas’ Freemont Country Club. “They had to move it from the smaller venue next door into the bigger room,” remembers Hoover. “It was an incredible way to come back.”
With a reception warmer than hell and a set of principles to guide them along their left-hand path, it’s unlikely the vocalist will step down from his pulpit any time soon; he has more sermons to preach.
“If anything, I want to make people simply think for themselves,” says Hoover. “I hope that this album is another reason for people to drop down their walls and look beyond what they’ve been told or taught to believe in. I want you to question everything after you listen to this record.”