ALBUM REVIEW: Blacklab – In A Bizarre Dream

Never a country to be worried about being viewed as a bit strange, Japan has always enjoyed a rich history of unnaturally jarring cultural opposites. For every Spirited Away, Rashomon or Ponyo there’s a Battle Royale, Suicide Club, or Tokyo Gore Police, and for every bouncy and sickeningly wholesome J-Pop band there’s a Corrupted, Bathtub Shitter, and Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation.

Owing more to the likes of Ringu and Ju-On than Akira Kurosawa, self-styled “Dark Witch Doom Duo from Osaka”, Blacklab return with their third full-length studio album, In a Bizarre Dream (New Heavy Sounds). Taking the rawness of their independently released debut Under the Strawberry Moon and 2020’s impressive follow-up, Abyss, the pair’s brand of lo-fi fuzzed-up stoner doom has never sounded so good.

Opener ‘Cold Rain’ is a deluge of doomy Black Sabbath riffs backed by huge drums from Chia Shiraishi, Yuko Morino‘s ragged, almost black metal shrieks clashing violently with her striking clean tones. Cuts like ‘Dark Clouds’ and ‘Lost’ display a distinct hardcore punk edge, albeit in different ways while Morino’s guitar tone simply crushes on the groove grind of ‘Abyss Woods’, her clean vocals taking the lead before being torn apart by more vicious screams.

The first half of ‘Evil 1’ is driven by portentous drums and a menacingly slow riff before the song surges into life halfway through, while partner piece ‘Evil 2’ features smooth guitar sounds, a layer of fuzz and delicately sung vocals veiling an undercurrent of barely restrained intensity. Easily the most accessible track on the record, ‘Crows, Sparrows and Cats’ is an uptempo slab of hard-edged fuzz-pop boasting a guest appearance by Laetitia Sadier of Anglo-French avant-pop act Stereolab. A low key instrumental consisting of disfigured psychedelia, the impressive title track leads perfectly into the slow, melodic dirge of ‘Monochrome Rainbow’ before the album climaxes with the colossal and appropriately titled ‘Collapse’.

Otherworldly screams, mammoth riffs and darkly oppressive drums, In a Bizarre Dream is a perfect storm of hardcore punk, sludge, retro and doom sure to satisfy anyone who prefers the more twisted side of Japanese culture.

Buy the album here:


8 / 10