Here’s a question for all the metal guitarists out there: why is it so important to prove to your audience that you can play country or bluegrass songs? It’s a weird trope. On their new instrumental album, Season of the Witch, John 5 and the Creatures head to the hills twice. He even busts out the Old Ban-Jo! It’s almost like he’s admitting that rock and roll has some roots down in the holler and not so much in the Hollywood hills.
How is it that we don’t speak of The Creation in the same reverent tones as The Kinks, The Stones, and The Who? They made seemingly commercial, well-written songs with appealing melodies, and they were produced by Shel Talmy, who produced and arranged tracks by The Kinks and The Who. Guitarist Eddie Phillips ostensibly created guitar bowing (playing guitar with a violin bow), but Jimmy Page isn’t sending him royalty checks. They had a stage show that would incite fervor; they had the right look; they had the crunchy, chunky sounds that epitomized a very specific era of British rock. And yet, and yet, they’re maybe a footnote in rock history.
Unless Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band comes to your house and plays a set on your porch (or perhaps you end up on his front porch), Front Porch Sessions is as close as you’ll get to that specific pleasure. It’s an organic, charmingly effective album that mixes classic blues songs with The Rev’s originals. It’s thrillingly alive and a fine introduction for those who haven’t been fortunate enough to make The Rev’s (and his Big Damn Band) acquaintance yet.
By Tim Murr
One of the original, biggest, and most significant death metal bands—Tampa, FL’s Obituary—will release their latest album on March 17. The album is a follow-up to their 2013 release, Inked In Blood, their second release with Relapse Records. The band dropped the first single for the album, “Ten Thousand Ways To Die,” back in October. It’s a solid track, sure, but it almost pales in comparison to the rest of the album.
There’s something enormously comforting about a new Old 97’s album. You know what it will sound like: giant, resonant guitar, Rhett Miller’s clever lyrics and busted yelp, a chugging beat. Songs to sing along with. There have been the barest of forays into other sorts of music, influences splashed on their otherwise perfect template, but if you can say one thing about Old 97’s it is this: they are consistent.
Sondre Lerche is going through some changes. His latest, Pleasure, bears the hallmarks of a breakup album: heartbroken, aching lyrics and a complete shift in musical style. Pleasure sounds nothing like any previous Lerche album, which, to be fair, touched upon a variety of musical styles. From the indie pop of his debut, Faces Down to the glorious jazz inflections of Duper Sessions, to the edgier kick of Phantom Punch, Sondre Lerche isn’t shy about dipping into disparate genres. On Pleasure, he goes full on 1980s revival, faceted through his undeniable talent.
Levi Petree’s debut album is called It’s Country, but it isn’t. It’s a delicious melange of things that might fit neatly under the Americana umbrella: pastoral balladry, kick-ass stompers, folksy sunniness, and more than a little punk-rock snarl. They come together to make a debut that is strong and assured, with loads of personality.
Forgive me, Papa Emeritus III, for I have sinned. Upon first hearing Ghost’s latest album Meliora, I dismissed it as pedestrian and perhaps even representing a stumble backwards for you and your Nameless Ghouls. O how wrong I was! Additional time spent worshipping at its sooty, cloven hooves has revealed my mistake. It is indeed Glory Incarnate.
While Ghost’s first album, the cleverly titled Opus Eponymous, introduced the world to the band’s unique blend of Satanic lyrics, syrupy vocals, and sharp guitar solos, their “sophomore psalm,” 2013’s Infestissumam, showed that the band’s brand of evil was evolving to include psychedelic-tinged organ music. Meliora reveals the full flower of what fans of Ghost have always suspected: they are as much of a hidden threat as any conjured by fundamentalist Christians. Their music might seem less obviously scary than heavyhitters from their death and black metal peers, but it’s no less diabolical. The songs on Meliora are as catchy as Satanic Panic.
Opening tune “Spirit,” devoted to the “Green Fairy” absinthe, includes a quote from an Edgar Allen Poe poem and Gothic, ghostly harmonies. Tracks like “From The Pinnacle To The Pit” (dig that monstrous bass riff!) and the sinister “Mummy Dust” have the power to induce the creeps, but there’s a melancholy in the madness on Meliora. “Cirice” feels like a throwback to early 1980s metal at first, but alternates that quality with a romantic melody complete with tinkling piano and timpani. It’s followed by the heartbreakingly beautiful harp solo of “Spöksonat,” which leads into “He Is,” a rapturous paean to The Infernal One that is both uplifting and downright poignant.
“Majesty” starts like a Deep Purple jam, but soon turns into straight-up prog rock, as if Rush had gone full Beelzebub back in the early 1980s, but with Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on vocals. “Devil Church” is the kind of organ music you’d hear in the place referenced in its title, while “Absolution” boasts a choir of dark angels, malevolent metal guitar crunch, and gleefully grim lyrics as Papa Emeritus III alternates between a hellish hiss and sublime, soaring vocals. “Deus In Absentia” provides a gorgeous end to Meliora‘s grandeur, complete with Gregorian chant-like vocals.
There may still be unbelievers out there, those who criticize Ghost for being all shtick and no substance, a band who relies on the visual trickery of corpsepaint, costumes, and masks to conceal the fact that these emperors of the underworld wear no clothes. Oh, that way madness lies! Baudelaire once said, “The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” When you find the songs on Meliora trapped in your skull and catch yourself singing lyrics like “The world is on fire / and you are here to stay and burn with me” out loud, you will realize it’s too late: you’ve already been seduced by their Satanic spell.
This review was originally published on Dirge Magazine.
Now I see clear and have no fear / I know what I must do
—Ty Segall, “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)”
There’s no such thing as a typical Ty Segall release. The singer/songwriter/musician extraordinaire has often explained that every time he tackles a new album, he does so from a totally different starting point than the previous one. This would explain why 2014’s Manipulator sounds very different from last year’s Emotional Mugger, or how Sleeper was probably not the follow up to Twins that everyone expected.
Fans of industrial music have likely heard all the heavy-hitters already: Throbbing Gristle, Test Dept., Einstürzende Neubauten, Cabaret Voltaire, Skinny Puppy, and beyond. Last year, Dark Entries re-released the eponymous debut EP from Philadelphia’s Executive Slacks, who are rarely mentioned in the same breath as those other seminal bands, if they are mentioned at all. Originally released in 1983 on Red Records, the release was an appetizer that contained just four songs.