The unruly pleasures of ‘black psychedelia’ on the debut album from Preston’s finest masked madmen.
Are Evil Blizzard:
b. Demons from the Id rampaging through Charles Manson’s most psychotic acid trip?
The reality is no doubt closer to (a). On stage, the answer is most assuredly (b).
After spending much of 2013 terrorising crowds of unsuspecting indie fans and attracting praise from arch-curmudgeon Mark E Smith, Evil Blizzard’s debut album had much to live up to. Would the barrage of bowel-loosening noise that works so well with the surreal horror of their performances, translate successfully onto gramophone record? Or would studio polish and a dearth of musical ideas expose them as attention-seeking clowns? Happily, The Dangers of Evil Blizzard revealed a developing – yet extremely potent – artistic vision that went well beyond mere ghoulish showmanship. Yes – although certainly not a soundtrack for all moods, it’s an absorbing, challenging slab of black psychedelia (an anachronism, but I don’t care) that repays as many repeat listenings as sanity can endure.
TDOEB crawls into life with a sinister music box theme, soon joined by a nauseatingly shrill android voice repeating some indecipherable phrase. Without warning, the warped lullaby is smashed into the ground by the bruising doom-metal riff of Feed the Flames, a lobotomised take on early Sabbath which sees drummer/vocalist Side begging for his own immolation. As the pace accelerates and multiple FX-laden basses (EB never molest guitars with six strings) plough into another primal riff, the effect is akin to having a skull full of sex-starved miniature chimpanzees hump your cerebral cortex into a dismal pulp.
In an inspired mood switch, four-minute pop song Clones escalates a stone-age garage-punk riff through increasingly neurotic key changes before letting loose with a wailed, dissonant anthem of camp despair. It’s catchy stuff and the misanthropic sentiments make an ideal accompaniment to a stroll around your local town centre. The hysterical Slimy Creatures also confines itself to seven-inch single length though it was never likely to seep onto radio playlists. Clotted around a fuzzed-up riff you’ve heard regurgitated one million times before and a driving trad-rock rhythm, there is no song here as such but it does accumulate a truly mesmerising trancelike quality. In fact, Slimy Creatures could go on for thirty additional minutes and draw no complaints from any self-respecting space cadet even sans chemical assistance. There’s some strange voodoo at work here, for sure.
On headphones, the percussive battering that introduces (Open Up The) Red Box feels like a form of sonic crucifixion – each beat a nail cleanly, efficiently penetrating the densest bone marrow. After this initial impact, the song that follows is reasonably amusing for its nagging insistence to… you know… open up the red box. Ultimately though, it feels like filler material, peddling a very similar riff to the earlier Clones.
As a counterbalance to the tightly-controlled cacophony, there are moments on TDOEB where the band loosen the vice grip slightly to make room for spacious post-punk dub and meditative tension-building. P.U.N.I.S.H.M.E.N.T restrains its onslaught of metallic distortion until the PIL-meets-Iommi chorus, relying on noodling, stripped-down bass and atonal, tortured vocals to create its medieval death-row aura. Elsewhere, Sleep uses its lulling, reverberating throb to elicit an uneasy calm before cruelly sounding an alarm bell comprised of several bass guitars hammering the same note in unison over pummeling drums.
Much of EB’s appeal comes from the sense of lysergic schlock that permeates their material; there’s an absurd humour at work, with the accent on surreal escapism. In this context, Fear of Judgement stands out as something more sober, more poignant. Under the melodramatic imagery, there’s a disturbing, all-too-real theme of terminal illness and terror felt in the face of imminent death. The music carries a powerful despondency strongly reminiscent of prime Joy Division, that is until what sounds like the opening squall of the original Doctor Who theme enters the mix with nerve-shattering consequences. A brilliantly orchestrated moment of blood-freezing horror.
If a Hawkwind influence is dotted throughout TDOEB, the 19-minute finale, Whalebomb, is a full-blown love letter to the legendary sonic assassins. For the first eight minutes, the ambience is mad-scientist-lab-haunted-by-the-spirit-of-Ian-Curtis – prowling bass, anguished repetition of the title, and electronic shrieks presumably created by the doll head /Theremin device wielded by Blizzard’s Dirty Filthy. Gradually, as the rhythm accelerates, the electronica becomes even more wildly freeform and the basses lock into a groove that recalls Space Ritual but with nihilistic grit replacing the hedonistic abandon and starry-eyed wonder of that 1973 landmark. For the most part, given the length and musical minimalism, it’s a surprisingly engaging ride but the lack of a truly memorable riff means that Whalebomb pales next to Master of the Universe or Brainstorm. But then, what doesn’t?
TDOEB is a gnarly, primal yet colourful, sadistically playful debut; the obvious urge to experiment held in check by a punkish desire to assault the nervous system with ear-shredding garage rock.
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