I’m currently in my third listen of Twilight Fauna’s Fire of the Spirit (Ravenwood Recordings/Fragile Branch Recordings) but I can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite clicking. Maybe it’s the case of a fascinating concept just slightly exceeding its execution. Sole player/creator Paul Ravenwood extracts as much as he can from his guitar work and very sparse rhythms. Continue reading
For those of you who are unaware (and I dare say there will be a few), Davie Allan is a Californian guitarist probably best known for his work on a variety of biker movies in the 1960s. Taking the traditional surf guitar sound, he twisted it into something entirely different using the newly invented Fuzzbox. Allan’s fuzzed up guitar tracks have been used in many films over the years, most recently in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds.
Joel Grind, on the other hand, comes from a completely different arena. His band Toxic Holocaust have been tearing up the Thrash scene since their inception in 1999. Their (or rather his, as Grind played all the instruments on the band’s first few releases himself) brand of Punk/Thrash relying more on creating sweaty, violent carnage in the moshpit rather than any kind of bizzaro Surf Rock atmosphere. Grind is no stranger to his music being used on soundtracks either though, having ‘Bitch’ from ‘Conjure and Command’ (Relapse) blasting out during a car chase in a Season 5 episode of Sons of Anarchy.
An entirely instrumental affair, this split four track EP (Relapse) consists of some seriously dirty hard rockin’ surf music with a greasy ’60s/early ’70s vibe. From the moment the motorbikes cease their revving at the beginning of Allan’s opening track ‘Recycled Too’ you are immediately thrust into a world of psychedelic, violent biker movies like Devil’s Angels, The Wild Angels or even Werewolves on Wheels where Hell’s Angels smoke weed, drop acid, have hairy, leathery sex, and beat up anyone who looks at them in a funny way. And all this happily continues with his second track ‘Buzz Saw Effect’.
Unsurprisingly, Grind’s contribution is somewhat heavier than Allan’s. ‘Peacekeeper’ kicks off his side of the disc enthusiastically, while second cut ‘The Invisible Landscape’ is driven by a more traditional clean surf guitar tone. Also, being instrumental tracks only, people who aren’t familiar with, or don’t usually care for, Grind’s Dalek-receiving-a-proctological-exam vocals don’t have to worry here.
If Rob Zombie directed a movie about Hell’s Angels on acid fighting a gang of machine gun wielding Go-Go dancers on the back roads of Hell, then this would absolutely be the soundtrack.
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Nightsatan are one of what I can’t help but think of as the “token” bands – a band who sign to a primarily Metal label, are championed by Metal musicians (in this case, Reverend Bizarre’s Albert Witchfinder, who’s performed with them live) and receive rave reviews from Metal sites, but don’t actually play Metal. It’s easy to be cynical about why these bands target themselves at a Metal audience, and why they largely seem to lack acceptance amongst whatever scene they should be a part of, but some quality acts have taken this route in the past.
Nightsatan play evocative, moody synth-soundscapes most easily comparable to Goblin (and modern imitators Zombi), Vangelis or the soundtracks to eighties and nineties action movies. The soundtrack comparison is no coincidence – Nightsatan And The Loops Of Doom (Svart Records) is ostensibly the soundtrack to a short movie of the same name (though the album is longer than the film) which, if the trailer is to be believed, consists of the three fantastically-costumed band members walking across a desert getting into poorly-choreographed fights. The music mirrors this with sinuous pulses, echoing beats and a kind of vintage-sinister atmosphere.
The main strengths and weaknesses of the album are the same that affect most soundtracks. This is music that’s been designed to support visual images – removed from those images you have music that can be evocative or boring depending on the listener’s mood. My own biggest issue with the music here was the lack of hooks or audible drama – atmosphere is built, but within any clear outcome it is often left simply to fall into the background and be ignored.
Being a clear homage to a particular style of music, aimed primarily at an audience that perhaps doesn’t possess the full critical context to judge it fairly, it’s easy to see …Loops Of Doom as something of a gimmick album. Certainly I have my doubts how long the appeal will remain after the novelty has faded. It is, however, a well-executed and engaging gimmick that yields up some pleasing pieces of music, at least for a while.