We like Strange so let’s see exactly what we have Here! Well this Italian duo have ties back to the countrie’s very rich and fertile doom origins with the brother of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Alexander Scardavian (Gilas) having been vocalist on work by Paul Chain and having him and members of Death SS regularly around him when he was growing up. This led to a huge interest in the music of the time to such an extent that Chain ended up mentoring him and helping develop Alexander’s interest to such an extent he appeared on Chain’s material founding Strange Here with him back in 1990. For various reasons Alexander withdrew himself from the scene and it has only been recently that along with ex Hand Of God guitarist, bassist Dom Lotito that he felt ready to breathe new life into the project again and lay down the tracks for what we have here album number II.
First title ‘Still Alone’ quickly sets up mood and emotion with wailing guitar chords and a heavy doom like groove flowing out the speakers. Vocals are rather elongated and cleanly croon away and this has a feel to it that comes straight out the late 70’s and early 80’s with a nice hefty bass defined production to match. There’s good melody and it gets its hooks in well as the vocals get all the more theatrical and some neat backing vocals join in and really enrich the whole sound. Apart from the aforementioned artists there’s even the vibe of some Christian Death lurking amidst all this and things get ever more crypt like and stygian as the slow meandering fretwork moves onto next number ‘Kiss Of Worms’ sounding like it’s crawling straight out the tomb. This has a real classic feel about it, nicely aged and with a historic presence making it seem like it has grown from decades past which in essence it has. Rising into wails and cackles this is a hard hitting number but the pair allow much more time on the next couple allowing them to slowly unravel and really draw you in. At times with numbers like Born To Lose I find myself thinking of early Celtic Frost part to the vocals and part to the cold stretched out feel of things, this is doom with a plodding beat but a real sense of unease about it as well. Musically it’s kept quite simple but that really grabs your attention and helps you live and breathe in every note. The long flowing guitar solo that suddenly hits is mystical and certainly strange and there’s a pervading dark gothic atmosphere about it all.
The mood lightens acoustically with Black, Grey And White and some retro keyboard can be heard in the background as this moves into a much more psychedelic direction evoking the likes of everything from The Doors to Deep Purple. It’s light and airy and again sounds absolutely timeless and like the work of a couple of people just relaxing and laying out a natural sounding unrushed jam. Vocals are as ever on the eccentric side making it all the more odd, especially as it builds and gets all the more trippy. ‘Acid Rain’ goes a bit Hawkwind on us with warbling guitars sounding like they have come off the band’s early works more than anything recent. It quickly gets heavy (man) and all the more oppressive with the scope to bring on a bad trip as the vocals get more frightening screaming out the songs title. But it’s time to relax again to the albums longest track, the 10 minute Only If… with hazy mellow guitars wafting out a delicate melody over vocals becoming all the more unhinged and reminding me a little of Bauhaus vocalist Peter Murphy at his most eccentric. This one could well have you nodding out a little but it’s worth not going completely under in a narcotic fug and sticking around for the final Rolling Stones-esque rocking burst of Shiftless finalising an album that has been strange in every respect.
I have to admit this one had more than a fair few head scratching moments to it especially on the first couple of listens and it’s not been an easy album to review in the slightest. Main thing is that I have really enjoyed it though and that’s what ultimately counts.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)