I absolutely loved drinking in the rich atmospheric grimness of ‘Poison’ the last 2010 released album from Illinois based black metal entity S Holliman. It conveyed a huge depth of expression with a classical backbone swirling around eldritch black metal and a wealth of ideas that took in what I perceived as both man’s inhumanity to man and to animals as well. Evoking great poignancy in its cinematic scope it was one of those rare albums that really has stayed the distance and is still very much a firm favourite several years later. This new album almost fell between the gaps as it unassumingly sat between a couple of other promos sent to us via Pesanta Urfolk who are releasing it on a sub-label. Naturally as soon as my brain clicked into gear and I realised what I had before me it was quickly downloaded and listened to. I scratched my head, it certainly had not affected me the same way in fact if anything I felt quite nonplussed after the spellbinding journey its predecessor took me on. Several listens later I am still unfortunately in that state of mind.
I guess the title did not help, I wanted to drift through the bayou and breathe in the heady swampy fumes of the creole as blackest witchcraft unveiled itself to me and unfortunately I found none of this and the title just struck as incidental. ‘Lust’ certainly swirls in enigmatically and there is a crepuscular feel of dread behind the discordant strings and choirs. I found here and at many other points of the album that things are played almost out of tune and purposely and it makes it a thoroughly uncomfortable listening experience at times akin to nails down a blackboard. This Hermanesque start goes into more recognisable stygian and Xasthur etched depressiveness that vocally has necrotic croaks lamenting the loss of Lady Caroline Lamb. Is Holliman trying to convey himself as black metal’s Byron? Musically it’s identifiable to what I have heard before but it sounds ill-defined and the vocals are particularly dull and lacking in power and force. The symphonic ‘Strangers’ swirls around and off key piano tones and eccentric low in mix howls come through reminding a bit of the likes of Ebony Lake. Nothing seems to co-ordinate between tracks, there’s no real sense of continuation just separate entities moving ghostlike through the ether. There’s something haunting or maybe the track ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ is more haunted by neo-classical piano, ghostlike choral parts and a compelling tomblike touch that would really creep you out and would not be out of place on a Bava movie. Blackened metal and overstated piano sweeps and vocal gargles emanate from the title track and I wonder if I am missing something. Looking up lyrics it appears our necromancer is retching up throaty words about practising Santeria and opening the gates so it does start to make a little more sense and the atmospheres seep through.
‘Drowning’ at last takes me back to that previous album with a keyboard weave that’s just fantastic and fantastical and takes me back to that mystical place I had been searching so desperately for. It’s a place I am finding fleetingly rather than traversing it throughout the album though, ‘Riot’ takes me back after the luck-lustre ‘Rain’ has fallen and there are sparks of magic here and an eccentricity and classical depth as found in the likes of Munruthel and Pensées Nocturnes. Too often though I find things meandering off on a tangent and just not gelling consistently. This is very much the case on the epic Lovecraftian closing track ‘Rats In The walls,’ which weighs in at an overblown 19 minutes. It may well be a bit of a dream in the witch house as it takes on an ambient flow but it never really wakes me up and just has me snoozing along waiting for Brown Jenkin to appear and gnaw at my bones.
I admit I have been overcritical here and Louisiana Voodoo is not a bad album at all. I guess I went into it with expectations way too high and ultimately found it did not deliver as I would have liked it too.