Here’s a thing and a half. I mean the name of the group is only a little curious whereas the album title is a bit underwhelming and maybe the third or fourth one in my collection with that exact title. Then you notice that this is a collaboration between Polish/English rock musician John Porter and that fierce, articulate, confrontational frontman with a flair for the theatrical, Nergal. Yep, Behemoth. So what happens when you hand a blackened death metal juggernaut an acoustic guitar?
Nick Cave and King Dude channelling Johnny Cash with flashes of Robert Johnson and low slung electric blues rock, apparently. Yeah it’s quite a departure, although apparently Nergal did record a blues demo about a decade ago under the name Wolverine.
Any good. Oh yeah, I’d say so. From the opening, western guitar jangle and blues harp of ‘My Church Is Black’, all Nick Cave mournful clean vocals and a dusty, grimy Ghoultown-like swagger this is an artist stripped of all defences. The duo stand and fall on their songs and this and follow up ‘Nightride’ stride, worn down bootheels kicking up dust and hollow eyes fixed a thousand yards in the distance. It’s a bare, dry bone sound and carried with a surety that immediately allows you to just put yourself in their hands and travel with them a while.
‘On The Road’ cranks up a sinuous, snaking electric riff with some superb drawl and call vocals, showing that this isn’t just one trick and one lick. ‘Cross My Heart And Hope To Die’ has a real Johnny Cash flavour to it, but like most of the rest of the songs here the lyrics take those hard dry-gulch notions of a harsh God and shift them much more into an occult and satanic vein. No not in a ‘scream if you love Satan’ way, in a simple, plain spoken way. Fans of King Dude will understand the approach, and if you have become acquainted with Zeal & Ardour (and if not, why not?) the feel is on some odd parallel path. This is crossroad blues, taking a long walk down that moonlit left hand path.
We also get a dark romance, ‘Of Sirens, Vampires and Lovers’ bringing a sensuality to a quiet, hot evening somewhere South of the border, and even the slight strain as the soulful voice reaches for that high note is perfect. ‘One Day’ is a ballad, too, but of a curious, downbeat nature.
I have to admit that I have no solid facts here but from the sounds the duo share lead vocals on the album, one seeming to have a slight accent, the other not so much, but again this just adds texture and colour to the album. When they share vocals, the sound is rich and real.
Yes this is a fascinating, and highly enjoyable album. It has a streak of love and honesty a mile wide, a wide eyed stare and a stubbled chin that won’t let you look away. Have a listen to the electric, bare stomp of ‘Shaman Blues’ and try not to get sucked right in even before the Motorhead gone country blues riff cranks up. It’s compelling stuff and just highlights the depth and breadth here.
I guess every Behemoth fan should listen to this, just because. But even if you’re not but your metal heart has a corner long ago sold to Robert Johnson, Johnny Cash and Nick Cave then you should listen. Hell they even stormed the doors of the Beeb for a Radio 1 session and if that ain’t just a bit subversive I don’t know what is.
Buy. Buy and get the left hand blues.