Do you remember the 2011 internet sensation that was Potion Seller? Our dear apothecary here at the Sleeping Village was nearly ruined by said video back in the day--besides the sudden mistrust in the potion selling industry, people kept asking him for potent quotables. As such, he was extremely resistant to the notion of us giving any publicity to that which endangered his livelihood (and his sanity.) But tyranny rules, and so here we are.
For those unfamiliar: one fateful day, one Justin Kuritzkes posted a video in which he utilized the glorious photo booth distortion filter to record dialogue between a knight and a potion seller who flat-out refuses to sell the knight any of his potions. Hilarity ensues, as did the tributes that inevitably spawn from virality. If you hadn't already guessed: the band in question today is, indeed, an overt tribute.
Potion Seller are riding this gimmick hard, bless 'em. As if to drive the point home, the intro track on EP 1 samples the opening exchange of the Potion Seller dialog, edited a tad to feature a spoOoOOky vox representing the titular character's menacing tone. And then the galloping guitar kick in, hoisting high a blackened gurgle. It's off to the races.
Potion Seller hearkens back to a time when metal was a simpler battleground. Riffs run fast and loose, born from the ranks of traditional heavy metal convention. Think early Saxon. Think early Anvil. The axemanship isn't complex, but it need not be--the simplistic riffs pound forward with a purpose, and the occasional hooks and licks add enough flavor to keep things intriguing. There's a somewhat timeless quality here--whether or not I've heard these riffs before elsewhere, I can't be certain. The percussion is equally no-nonsense, fitting exactly as it should within the mix. Sonically, then, this EP feels, in many ways, unearthed from a particular point in 80's metal revelry. Accept, of course, for the obvious internet-era referential material.
It's not all rollicking heavy metal, however. Indeed, as they state, EP 1 "amalgamates influences from across the metallic spectrum." Amongst the trad elements, Potion Seller leans heavily into the proto-black of speed metallers Venom, or, as they cite, Barrow Wight and Negative Plane. Both apt comparisons, as this trio similarly applies a blackened touch without ever falling over the edge--albeit with a hefty bass presence that lends a little extra weight to the whole affair. Lest it be forgot, the vocal delivery is a particularly strong suit, with phlegm-ridden gurgles and gargles emanating from J. Souza's maw with a delightfully acidic flair.
The three tracks dwelling with the confines of this EP feel, in many ways, like a single composition. The title track, situated in the middle of this Potion Sellin' sandwich, features a earwormy chorus that frankly remains the most memorable aspect of the entire package after the runtime has concluded. In contrast, closing track "I Beheld...The Crescent Blade" feels in many ways like an extended outro, as the structure lends itself to exploration rather than repetition of a motif or theme. In contrast to the more self-contained "Potion Seller," the vocals feel like the mutterings of a madman in their delivery. This certainly isn't a bad thing--I love a little madness, after all--but in the case of a longer release, more songs that operate around a strong chorus will benefit Potion Seller's overall impact.
All told, however, this is a very promising debut. Given their attachment to a particular meme and a particular moment, I'm very curious as to see how they will expand their reach on further releases--or, conversely, how they will seek to maintain the Potion Seller worship. If you have 10 minutes of time (who doesn't?) and love the rough 'n' raw edge of heavy metal's angsty teenage'd years (who doesn't?), this scribe recommends you give Potion Seller a listen or two.
Potion Seller - EP 1 was released April 2nd, 2020
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!