All Heed The Black God by Saint Karloff
You had me at Karloff. Grinning from ear to ear as I examine the Evil Dead II crossed with Hammer Horror vibes artwork, I know exactly what I'm in for. Even by the off chance that the music isn't that great, I am simply happy about the fact that there is a Norwegian band actually called Saint Karloff and the album cover looks very rooted (no pun intended, nods to Evil Dead tree rape scene) in horror. Nostalgia, love, and nerdy passion for classic horror kicks in. So I quickly dim the lights, microwave some popcorn, grab the bong, and hit the record player with a VENGEANCE. And I'm quickly assured that this is not just nostalgia chemicals swirling in my brain and they are no gimmick; because the music is fantastic. In fact, everything I would like it to be. Break down the door, Frankenstein's monster! Saint Karloff are here to pay respects to our horror elder gods as well as melt your face and/or mind with some classic heavy metal. Whether or not their name is a nod to his work as the monster, or an even more obscure nod to the lords of metal and doom themselves, Black Sabbath,( name artistically licensed and summoned from the Karloff film of the same title...if you don.t know, now you know, children), I'm beyond down with it. So far, it sounds like we're in for a nostalgic horror ridden psychedelic doom trip into a haunted forest full of black magic, undead souls, rock, shock and Sabbath worship? Well, actually, yes. yes we are. and if that ain't up your alley... first of all, I don't want to be friends with you; and second of all,l this record is not for you. But Saint Karloff offers a lot more than Sabbath worship as I don't mean to discredit their originality, they are a uniquely sounding band that demonstrate solid musicianship and horrific creativity throughout the whole record. And that, my friends, is a grave worth digging.
The epic, 7-plus minute, complete with a phenomenal mood- setting intro, Ghost Smoker, is enough to get your attention and keep it throughout the record. The eerie crow squeals and thunder-ridden ominous intro commands the listener into a headspace for a Hammer Horror flick or the raise of the true Frankenstein's monster. Alas, as the thunder roars, and "Dead children" become the first two words of the entire record; only to be preceded by a Sabbath- approved doom rock hook. Completely sold. My grin has grown larger larger than the void in Frankenstein's monster's heart. (Lighting crashes. its alive!) Saint Karloff are here to not only hit you with an electric shock, there here to remind us of where heavy metal came from, what its all about, and tear the place up in the process. If this is any indication... were in for quite the atmospheric, stomping, stoned, and menacing, riff-heavy and bass thumping, monster of a record.
And we are. Space Junkie, another winner in name alone, is a fast paced raging coked out space phantom of a track that is, well, just that. A heavy, axe-chugging, fast and menacing - yet at the same time groovy as all hell. Oh, and topped with howling and smooth vocals from singer AND guitarist, Mads Melvold. This track burns down the village with torches and all . Scratch that analogy. Space Junkie sounds like what Predators would listen to if they smoked the devil's lettuce or were tripping on some extraterrestrial death fungus (not a bad band name.. DEATH FUNGUS). Sludge-y and stoner-y with enough heavy doom rock to satisfy that crowd but will also satisfy the bloodthirsty metal fans and Predators alike with its pure thrash metal rippingness. Complete with one of the coolest sounding guitar solos of the year, I'm blissful. What else ya got Karloff?
And like any well written Karloff or monster flick.. the evil bastards let the suspense build. The following track is a haunting little acoustic instrumental piece, only to psych you out a little at the end. Imagine spinning into a void of red skulls, dead trees, and a heavy fog to set the mood. You get it, spooky and trippy stuff that is very well placed against the previous jugular cutter of a tune. Akin to that of Orchid on Master of Reality? But your ass. Zero complaints from me, til the Dark Sun sets! Distortion in feedback set in... then the grimness of a down-tuned riff... only to be soon carried by the death marching and zombie walking rest of the band into the blackened sun rise. This is definitely more of a down beat, bluesy tune with a haunting groove. What I'm starting to notice is without expanding thier realm of musical diversity beyond the point of recognition or to the point of ridiculousness, each song possesses its own feel and vibe to it. Each song is an event and is strong enough to stand on its own, which is a quality just about every great record has. But all while remaining true to themselves because each tune is very Saint Karloff, they are wonderfully aware of what are and who they are.And they do it well. They are no NIN by any stretch, but every song has its own unique stamp and experimentation to it all within the dark universe of Karloff. and if he's just the saint then who's the God?
Well, perhaps he lies within a Radioactive Tomb. A noticeably more upbeat and higher pitched rock n roll and even, dare i say, PUNK anthem of a track? Radioactive Tomb rocks like you're trapped in one. And there's not too much else too it. Awesome imagery is painted by the lyrics and vocals painted on the decaying neon hazardous radioactive landscape.. a little bongo break down in the middle for good measure. We have ourselves what id like to coin a banging little voodoo punk tune. it almost reminds me of White Zombie, which, Karloff vs Lugosi, maybe? Who ever wins, we loose..
When The Earth Cracks, and the Black God draws closer to a conclusion, now were getting into some metal and by metal I mean SABBATH territory. And that ain't a horrible thing, ever. Sounding like something straight of Master of Reality in regards to atmosphere or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in regards to heaviness, when the earth cracks open is pure 70's doom metal witchery done right in every way. All hail. The ritual is only completed by sealing the deal with a wickedly toned guitar solo of pure bloody rock n roll. Actually. the sound and tone of the album is just so unique yet totally familiar and nostalgic at the same time. In the current state of worship/throwback/nostalgic bands, its hard not to sounded jaded, but Saint Karloff nailed it like a coffin. This is done perfectly. Every instrument on this record shines an has their chance in the spotlights highlighting the best of their musical capabilities and hiding none of their weaknesses, like true bad ass monsters do.The bass is thick, nasty and beautiful on each track and the drums just wont quit, either. They do very well maintaining loose jungle/voodoo ritual dark vibe but remain tight and on point. Obviously, the guitars and vocals power through the thick and heavy atmosphere laid by the drums and bass, as the riff-heavy occult worship rock does, and I ain't mad. And one dude handling both guitar and vocal duties sounding this killer is pretty damn impressive, in my humble opinion.
The epilogue, Spellburn, does this quite well. Definitely bass and drum heavy though this song certainly casts the spells and summons all the entire band to preform at their best. Or worst.. depending on which way you look at it. The droning distorted guitar sounds so haunting and perfectly toned. The chords and psychedelic, darkly lurking riff patterns sprinkled in the witches cauldron melodies of doom make for quite the rocking spell. It fucking rocks. Simple as that. And the be complete with a children of the grave - esque groove at the end they riding into the night with the best of Karloff's films into dark obscurity.
Saint Karloff have proven themselves to be one of the best nostalgic metal trips out there; joining the ranks of Lucifer, Uncle Acid, and the likes. Obviously, I really enjoyed this and I'm sure I will enjoy it more and more as l continue to spin it through the Halloween season!!
Rock Rating: 5/5
Gym Rating: 3/5
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