Well, dang, here’s an album with a full-blown strut-worthy, stomp-happy boogie backline. And yet Death Alley isn’t exactly a moniker that you’d associate with such a stone cold groove is it? It turns out that Black Magick Boogieland hasn’t exactly created by a bunch of full-bearded rednecks sippin’ beer and drivin’ Cadillacs. No, these fellas hail from Amsterdam and have a bit of a dark side. Amongst their cultish brethren is ex-The Devil’s Blood guitarist Oeds Beydals and former members of niche punk band Gewapend Beton and psychedelic doomsters Mühr. Considering they love a boogie or a good freak-out as much as they do a bit of rough-and-ready, they clearly form a bit of a unique marriage of styles. It’s a sound that draws influence from both past and contemporary music – bands such as Down, Humble Pie, Audrey Horne, Blue Öyster Cult and Foghat.
From the off, they set a breakneck pace with “Over Under” gifting frontman Douwe the opportunity to begin firing out his snarls and yells over the feisty, warm string-work of Beydals’. It seems they’re not exactly the “psychedelic protopunks” they claim to be either, but there is a dark underbelly to this that should be confronted.
They really are serious about that Black Magick part, you see. There are haunting moans lurking in the background and there’s a significant degree of menace in the way he yells “You’re gonna get it!” Oddly, there’s a definite backing drop-out which accompanies such a vehement statement. It’s suddenly all a bit unnerving. Then, for the swinging title-track they invite you to peek “behind the curtain” to a place where they practice the dark arts. Here, there’s tripped-out lines such as “You’re impregnated with a magical charm, cross-contaminated to make you small” to contend with and also a real seedy tone struggling to fight through the sashaying rhythmic vibes.
As the constituent parts of the music diametrically oppose each other, it’s easy to find the vocal tone something of a jarring hindrance to the glowing bluesy wash of what lies beyond it. However, when Douwe slows his roll, as he does for “Golden Fields of Love”, it all finally begins to mesh and “Alles Komt Goed” as they say in the ‘Dam.
They do finally concede to Beydals will for the closing seven-and-a-half minutes of the album allowing him full rein to jam, solo and consequently send us grooving into a state of utter bliss. It’s the icing on the cake that makes the track “Supernatural Predator”, with its rich kaleidoscopic exterior and thick black heart, quite the formidable act to follow – headline acts beware.
There is a potential for their music to experiment and dig down deeper into the occult and summon even wilder sounds. What’s most surprising of all is that I can’t think of a safer pair of hands to get us to that point than those of Death Alley. Whilst other retro bands recreate the past, these lads pay due homage to it, then give it a damn good shake. Perhaps next time, they’ll shake a little harder.
(7.5 John Skibeat)