Having dealt with the topic of love and all its casualties on 2016’s ‘Sex’, TJ Cowgill tackles the polar opposite on latest album ‘Music to Make War To’. Over the course of seven records King Dude’s sound has shifted and developed into something wholly unrecognisable to his first release ‘My Beloved Ghost’, morphing from macabre and minimalistic acoustic songs to gritty, brooding neofolk. This seventh opus is another step in the evolution of Cowgill’s musical journey and, despite the subject matter, it’s the most sultry his songs have ever sounded.

The sombre opening ‘Time to Go to War’ is a far cry from the high octane battle anthem you would expect from its moniker – softly played piano accompanies the Dude’s mournful crooning, before leading into ‘Velvet Rope’ which is an entirely different beast. The upbeat 80s beat accompanying the simplistic guitar and keys conjures a likeness to Sisters of Mercy, while the juxtaposition of the coarse lyrics “when you hold me close it’s like being choked by a velvet rope” sung in a near monotone is not unlike Death in June. In true King Dude fashion, no two songs on this record are ever truly alike, from the seductive duet of ‘Good and Bad’ with Josephine Olivia, to the death rock anthem that is ‘Dead Before the Chorus’ with it’s provocative line “See the faces of the people you hate, they fucking love it when you make a mistake, but how suffering can one person take?”

This is possibly King Dude’s most ambitious output to date, deploying every musical trick he has up his sleeve, TJ traverses a musical spectrum of power chords, post punk, synth wave and beyond to excite, enrage and arouse the senses. As unpredictable as he is talented, Cowgill can never be accused of boring his listeners and it’s apparent that every release is as much for him and what he needs to say as it is for fans eager to get their hands on new material. Another masterpiece from the King. Love live.

(9/10 Angela Davey)