Oh boy, I asked for this one. No, literally, I did. You see, Thee Editor had posted a discussion on it, and I happened to mention that having heard it over on Youtube, I thought that this was better than the original. Now, of course, I have to tell you why.
Let’s start at the beginning. Kyle Shutt, who is the guitarist from the puzzlingly maligned band The Sword decided to record a cover version of the classic Pink Floyd album “Dark Side of the Moon” after “getting baked” (I assume that he is a huge fan of Mary Berry). Accordingly, he assembled a troupe of musicians, including fellow Sword bassist Bryan Richie and drummer Santiago Vela III, Alex Marrero of Brownout on vocals, Jason Frey on Saxophone and keyboardist Joe Cornetti. Undertaking to re-record one of the most beloved albums in the history of progressive rock is a considerable undertaking; essentially, you’re putting yourself out there to be shot down by purists and die-hard fans of the original.
Well, here it is. I prefer Doom Side of the Moon.
Yeah, you read that right. I’m sticking to my guns. Why? Well, partially because – and yes, I know that this is really killing a sacred cow, but I’m not all that overawed by the original. Of course it has some great tracks, and yes, I’m sure that it was really stunning when it first emerged in 1973, but on subsequent listens, I end up shrugging my shoulders more times than I nod my head. Part of the problem with the album, for me at least, is the amount of filler that’s there under the guise of atmospheric soundscaping to tie it together.
Doom side of the Moon starts well. “Speak to me” is updated to be both familiar to fans of the original, while adding just enough to make its own mark, but of course the album gets under way proper with “Breathe (In the Air)”. Doom Side’s version is an airier, clearer acoustic number, less jazzy and cluttered than the original. “On the Run” manages to be essentially a blow for blow cover, but with more feedback and a darker vibe. It’s on the frankly stunning version of “Time” though that everything clicks into place. With a raw, stoner rock vibe, and screeching feedback giving way to urgent drumming and thunderous bass, the song has been given a new presence that has both menace and insistent, pressing atmosphere that the original lacked. Of course, Floyd fans will lament the missing trademark drum introduction to the track, but the stripped-down Sabbathian approach of Vela really transforms this number. The extended guitar solos are simply magnificent; adding tone and verve to the melancholy of the lyrical content. The saxophone work is also simply tremendous, adding a richness of sound that manages to maintain a link to the original, but mainlining the heaviness of this new approach.
“Great gig in the sky” does pretty much what the original did. I’m not that fussed about it on “Dark Side”, and I’ve not changed my mind here either. “Money” though, is another story. Pretty much every person on the planet will have heard the original, but here, it’s absolutely transformed into another thing entirely. The basic structure is the same, but this is “Money” if “Money” was a track from Sleep’s “Holy Mountain”. Even the restructured introduction has a couple of cheeky nods to the basslines from “Dragonaut”. The half-way duel between the simply jaw-dropping axework and the joyous keyboard work is enough to fill even the hardest of hearts with glee. If I had one minor complaint, it would be that singer Marrero, while possessing a fine enough clean vocal style, often sounds as if he’s trying adopt an English accent. On a couple of occasions, he sounds more Dick Van Dyke than Pink Floyd, but for the most part it isn’t too distracting.
“Us and Them” is treated with a fair amount of reverence, until around the five and a half minute mark, where everything goes a bit “November Rain”, with the kind of melodramatic guitar flair that really needs to be performed by someone bare-shirted on a cliff. In the rain. “Any Colour You Like” emerges from the treatment like a desert rock jam session, while “Brain Damage” is an exercise in darkly comic sarcasm. Doom’s version is much darker and distorted, compared to the positively limp original. Closer “Eclipse”, featuring more noodles than a Chinese Takeaway, at least has more bite with the pummeling rhythm section and wah-wah heavy six-string work.
I guess for me, it comes to this: I prefer stoner rock to classic rock, and I just think that the versions of the songs presented here are more interesting. As ever, this will be a matter of personal taste, but as someone who finds the original good in parts, I think that this release manages to navigate around being essentially true to the atmosphere of the original, but executed in a way that’s much more pleasant to my sensibilities.
The flaming may now begin.
(8.5/10 Chris Davison)