Drink with the Living Dead

Check out the new animated video for Ghoultown’s epic “Drink with the Living Dead,” from the fantastic Life After Sundown.

When you’re done watching, swing on over to www.ghoultown.com and pick up some of their wares.

Support brilliance!

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The Boney Hand of Death is Nigh

I discovered Ghoultown by way of Solitude Aeturnus, my all-time favorite doom-metal band. Count Lyle, vocalist and once a bassist in Solitude Aeturnus, founded Ghoultown in the late 90s. The epic, somber tones of his doom days are not to be found here, though. Instead, Ghoultown plays southern gothabilly mixed with horrorpunk on a Spaghetti Western binge, a house band for a hoedown in Hell.

Life After Sundown is the band’s sixth album, and easily their best to date. It begins with “Cruel Winds of Dusk,” an intro that elicits images of an imminent showdown on the main street of a lawless desert town. And maybe that’s the point, as “Dead Outlaw” follows, barging out the saloon’s batwing doors, drunk on firewater and ready to kill. “Against a Crooked Sky” and “Werewolves on Wheels” keep that punk rockabilly spirit kicking up dust, as do “Find a Good Horse” and “Under the Phantom Moon.”

“I Spit on Your Grave” is a sweaty ode to vengeance, while “London Dungeon” is a dark country and western take on the Misfits’ punk classic. Life After Sundown is a fantastic album, but the brilliance of “Drink with the Living Dead” is what truly sets Ghoultown apart from the other bands spinning yarns about drinkin’ and fightin’ and causin’ a cowboy ruckus. “Drink with the Living Dead” is exactly what its title suggests, a six-minute cautionary tale about a liquefied showdown with the ghost of Stanton Cree. Pure lyrical and musical genius.

Like its predecessors, Life After Sundown is a masterful piece of work, only this time it’s even better. Ghoultown has created the perfect soundtrack for a drunken night of poker, murder, and whorin’…

Zoviet Records | 2008 | 12 tracks (43:21) | File Under: Hellbilly Horror Rock

Originally appeared in Shock Totem #1, July 2009.

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The Light and All the Dark

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to review By Blood Alone’s Eternally EP. Here is an excerpt of that review: “Like the legendary Bauhaus (arguably the most famous gothic rock band ever) stylistically mixed it up in the 80s, By Blood Alone have combined many different elements on Eternally, from rock, metal, doom, gothic romanticism, even a little pop, and created a tapestry that is undeniably gothic in style but also much more—if you can listen beyond the free-form, minimalist nature of the songs.”

And so comes Seas Of Blood, By Blood Alone’s first full-length album.

Not a lot has changed since Eternally, in terms of style. I’ve read some call this a progressive gothic album, but I disagree. The band still mixes it up pretty well, but they keep that musical sea a bit calmer than the term progressive suggests. The album does, however, boast some very interesting, style-shifting pieces that also have the metal and symphonic elements kicked up a few notches. This is immediately evident on the opening track, “Serpentarius,” which starts like a lost 80′s-metal classic before shifting into a keyboard-heavy masterpiece. “Wants Me Dead” (re-recorded from their 2004 demo) continues to carry the proverbial metal torch, its fire fed by John Graveside’s galloping “fist in the air” riffs. However, the song’s heaviness seems to come not from the guitar but from the subtle yet chilling keyboard work of Jenny Williamson. “Lovely Lies” and “Nidhogg” embrace a similar style, slowly exuding a sense of dread and foreboding.

With four of the album’s eight tracks walking a relatively similar path, it could have been very easy for the band to get bogged down in a well-traveled rut. Fortunately, By Blood Alone understand balance. The creepy “Undead Friend” plays like a burial waltz for the recently departed—if it were the 1800s. And the twisted and quirky “Little Lady Lillit”—with vocalist Cruella doing her sadistic best at sounding cute and downright devious—reminds me of Emilie Autumn’s post-Enchant foray into her self-dubbed Victoriandustrial style. A new recording of “Deny Yourself”—which was on the Eternally EP—is the album’s heaviest track, relying more on the crunch of guitar and double-bass than the atmospheric veil of keyboards. The epic—and arguably best—of the album is “Seas Of Blood,” a graceful and expansive track that evokes a sort of sad beauty. The music rises and falls with the slow intensity of an ocean swell, Cruella’s voice lightly but passionately rocking on its surface.

By Blood Alone isn’t a flawless band. Part of me wishes the guitars had a fatter, heavier tone, and others have mentioned that Cruella’s vocals aren’t as strong as some others. While those might be valid complaints for most bands, I think it actually adds to the character of the band’s music. There’s something real and warm in its imperfections. And there’s nothing bad about this band, especially when it comes to the songs. A band like Linkin Park might have the luxury of spending two years doing pre-production, two more years of studio recordings and even more overdubs, for what ends up a thirty-minute album with not a note out of place, but it loses the human element in the process—it lacks the passion and defined character of something real. While not flawless, By Blood Alone is a band that is nearly so, in spite—or possibly because—of its flaws. Seas Of Blood is an outstanding album.

Jericho Hill Records | 2007 | 8 tracks (50:19) | File Under: Gothic Metal

Originally appeared in Shock Totem #1, July 2009.

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When the Radio Goes Dead

What happens when you partner the son of a country legend with one of the greatest and most recognizable writers of the century? You get one of the best albums released in 2010, in my humble opinion.

Shooter Jennings has, thankfully, never tried very hard to shake the shackles of his roots. When your father is Waylon Jennings, why would you? He looks and sounds so much like Waylon, it is uncanny. After putting out several albums on his own, all mining familiar territory of honky-tonk outlaw country with tinges of hard rock, he upped the ante.

Black Ribbons was an undertaking, and I would imagine a hard sell to the label. CD sales—and music sales in general—have been on the steady decline for a few years. So how the long hard, dark-eyed young man was able to sell a cynical concept album about the government control of the media, and land the participation of the one and only Stephen King, is nothing short of a miracle. But it worked. Whatever he did, it worked.

The story arc of the album is an edgy one. In the not too distant future, on a given day, the big bad government will take over all voice media, TV, and radio.

The tale follows a lone disc jockey (voiced by Stephen King) as he conducts his final broadcast before the faceless brutes shut him down. The story is told through his spoken tirades and sermons as well as through the songs by his favorite band, Hierophant, which is essentially Shooter Jennings and band channeling whatever styles seem to suit them.

This album most likely horrified fans of his earlier work, as the music contained on Black Ribbons is a multi-headed beast. Taking some of the country flavored rock he has always presented and incorporating elements of nu-metal, industrial, folk, and alternative.

Stephen King does his best to channel his inner DJ, not a difficult task considering he owned his own radio station for some time, and he knows his music. His role is solid and well-played, and makes the album a more enjoyable experience.

Also of note, the packaging for this particular album is among the coolest I have ever seen, every bit as darkly gorgeous as the music within. A masterpiece that will sadly smolder unrecognized for years until someone discovers it and proclaims loudly from the hilltops what it is: A dystopian prophecy, a 1984 for 2011—or more actually, the sad truth.

Rocket Science Ventures | 2010 | 20 tracks (71:33) | File Under: Indie Folk Fusion

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