2017chronicleNow is the time to speak about the state of the (gothic) nation. As the self-appointed Ambassador of the Swedish Embassy of Gothic Country I have the privilege to write impertinent notes. I believe in one-way communication. That's why there are no commentary fields on the site. Today's society is smothered by constant weighing and measuring. The written word is dying or at least in sharp decline. Someone has to make a stand and write a text which at least contains one main and subordinate clause. When you live in a remote country like Sweden there's a huge geographical distance to the gothic country scene (actually, it's very questionable if a scene exists) and perhaps a monocular overview of the genre. Distance isn't necessarily always a disadvantage. This is my third country note (since the site was launched in March 2014). In this note I look back on 2016 and make wishes for 2017. Historically, my track record for wishes coming true isn’t impressive. On the contrary, it’s very depressive. But, hope is the last thing to leave a human being. Given the very brutal, not to say, hostile environment for this kind of music you have to choose between being an optimistic fool or a negative bastard. Personally, I tend to move freely between these positions depending on my mood or the situation.

The gothic country genre is endangered and at risk of extinction. The regrowth is close to zero. The field lies open for tiresome epigones and they are really on the move. A good friend of mine tried to tell me that there's a time and context for everything. I suspect that the best years have come and gone for the genre. Despite these disheartening facts there’s a drizzle of new album releases. However, the general quality of the music has deteriorated. New albums are often disappointments with few exceptions. The biggest disappointment this year was “Star Treatment” by Wovenhand. It didn’t come as a big surprise. For every album (last three) their sound has become harder (and less interesting). Their enigmatic soundscape is long gone. This album is on the verge of unlistenable. The Handsome Family, superstars by gothic country measures, released their tenth album, “Unseen”. It was critically acclaimed. I feel a bit lukewarm about this album. It isn’t bad in any way, but definitely not their finest hour. The same goes for “The Commandments According To Slim Cessna's Auto Club” by Slim Cessna's Auto Club and - with the catchy title - “Eating Meatballs On A Blood-Stained Mattress In A Huggy Bear Motel” by The Dad Horse Experience. But all are not disappointments or lukewarm experiences. On the positive side, there's a couple of albums like "Redemption & Ruin" with covers by The Devil Makes Three. Their version “The Angel of Death” nails me to the wall. “Sing It Ugly” by Those Poor Bastards (takes distortion to a new level), “Thicket” by OldBoy (high delivery dependability) and “Gathered Blood” by Sons of Perdition (will not be accused of repeating themselves) are all three very good albums. Last, but not least, “Shy Ghosts” by T.K. Bollinger really knocked me off my feet.

I had three wishes for 2016. None of them came true. The first wish was a new gothic country album by Christian Williams. The second wish was a sophomore release from The Victor Mourning. This particular wish has become somewhat of a tradition. The third wish was to acquire at least one of the hard-to-find four missing albums (read more here) and to get all albums from the defunct label Devil's Ruin Records. I'm not an unreasonable or greedy man. I only wish for the same three things in 2017. What about next year? Plans are just plans in the genre. Palodine had plans to release a new album in 2016, but didn't for some reason. Speak of the devil and he shall appear. Palodine just announced that their new album "Melancholy Trucker of Death" will be released on Bandcamp next week. Maybe Slackeye Slim will come forward and release a new album. That would be great. Reverend Glasseye has returned after several years of obscurity. His new band Gun Mother will release the debut album "These Golden Threads" at a time undetermined. The adjective “undetermined” sounds ominous and definitely has a more vague meaning in this context. Let’s hope for the best, prepare for the worst and plan to be surprised. I'm cautiously negative about 2017. You have to build resilience in the face of adversity. To quote Leonard Cohen who passed away in November: “I’m ready my Lord”.

 

 

Gun MotherReverend Glasseye sadly decided to end his legendary musical project after several setbacks. In a blog entry in August 2013 he wrote: "...In fact, I would say that most of the hurdles that Reverend Glasseye faced in its lifetime were caused by me. Back in the mid-oughts, when the band was doing extraordinarily well, it was my own abundant and needlessly existential neurosis that caused the band to stall out completely. As more people began to like the music we were making, I became more and more dissatisfied with it, and at that point I had a very hard time listening to the advice of others." Reverend Glasseye is one of the most talented songwriters in the gothic country genre. In fact, Reverend Glasseye was too talented for his own good. Reverend Glasseye has nowadays moved on to a new musical project, Gun Mother, read more here (opens in a new window). If you click on the picture to the right you will be able to listen to "Hispid Hare" from what will be their debut album "These Golden Threads". The album is to be released at a time undetermined. Reverend Glasseye recently wrote on his Facebook page "I am incredibly proud of this record and I hope you enjoy this song...This song, in particular, is one of my personal favorites. It took an agonizingly long time to complete and to comprehend. I wrote it in a dark place towards the end of Reverend Glasseye and it has the distinct of being one of the only songs to make it through all of my projects." I was flabbergasted when I listened to the song and I can't stop listen to it. I can't wait for the Gun Mother album. Reverend Glasseye is disbanded, but Reverend Glasseye lives on.

 

 

oldcompassGothic country and its subgenres thrives in all time and climate zones. When all is said and done, this is true. However, the longer I've been working with this project in a futile attempt to bring some order in this unmanageable mess, the more I've become convinced of that there are distinct regional differences. Let's make some demarcations. My study is limited to Northeast, Midwest, South and West (the categories in the Article department and the US). I will now explain my bold theory, which is quite similar to meteorological climate theory. Northeast is closest to Europe. Many bands are influenced by music from the Balkan Peninsula and even romani music. Another influence is dark cabaret and vaudevillian tradition. Of course, it's still dark americana. Reverend Glasseye is maybe the best example. Fire on Fire and Brown Bird are two other examples. Midwest is very complex. It's based on neo-traditional country, gothic twang and dark variations on ozark bluegrass sound. The best example is Strawfoot. There seems to have been a strange mutation in Wisconsin. Many talented musicians hail from Wisconsin, .357 String Band, Highlonesome and Those Poor Bastards among others. South is the home of Southern Gothic. The genre shares thematic connections with the Southern Gothic genre of literature. It's dark and gritty, like a pitch-black Cormac McCarthy novel. Songs often examine poverty, criminal behavior, religious imagery, death, ghosts, family, lost love, alcohol, murder, the devil and betrayal. But, not necessarily in that order. Sons of Perdition, Myssouri and Antic Clay are good examples. West is decadent. The epitome is extremely superficial people preoccupied with their appearance or roller skating at Venice Beach. Or both at the same time. However, western sound differ from this stereotype. It's hippie-like, junk-band, hurdy-gurdy and lot of accordion. I thought my theory was rock solid until I came to Denver, read more here (opens in a new window). The Denver sound doesn't fit within the theory. Well, further research is required.

 

 

Bowie experienceDavid Bowie died from liver cancer earlier this year only two days after the release of his critically acclaimed album "Blackstar". However, it took only two seconds before the music industry vultures smelled a business opportunity. They laughed and chuckled: How can we earn easy money with minimum effort? Well, let's see...what do we got in our cupboard? Hmm, why not use the mediocre british copier with the noble name of Laurence Knight. Let him be the useful idiot. On a very good day and with a benevolent interpretation he sounds and looks just like Bowie. The last couple of years Laurence Knight has capitalized on the music of David Bowie through the "Bowie Experience". The vultures seems to have reasoned as follows: Let's exploit the original "Bowie Experience" cover tour. Allegedly, this is "an absolute must-see for all new and old devoted Bowie fans". Naturally, the music industry vultures have strong incentives to exaggerate Laurence Knight's importance and claim to fame in the world. He has "toured in England and abroad". The "famous" Laurence Knight is coming to Sweden in November with "musicians" and a "choir". Allegedly, they are "world class". World class musicians and choir touring in small Swedish county towns in November? Well, it has to be a first time for everything. Read more about the spectacle here (opens in a new window. However, this event wouldn't be possible without ignorant people. In my opinion, people who are planning to attend this spectacle should undergo a minor psychiatric evaluation. I don't know which is worst: the supply or the demand. Probably both. There must be a level in Dante's Inferno for vultures, Laurence Knight and ignorant audience. God forgives...I dont.

 

 

Gathered Blood 960pxLong awaited “Gathered Blood” is released. This is the first album by Sons of Perdition as a four-piece band (the collaborative split album "Fossils" doesn't count). The songs on “Fossils” didn’t mark any sharp turn musically. It’s was more of evolution than revolution. I was really relieved since I believe in gradual change. Change is good - taken in moderation. Sons of Perdition declared earlier that they worked on a dark album and it wasn’t exactly a country album. I wasn’t too worried when I got the chance to pre-listen to the new album. There is a change in focus. Zebulon Whatley has previously said that he seeks new challenges in his songwriting and that he is bored with religious topics and also felt that he had exhausted the subject. Said and done. The religious topics are subdued on the album, but it’s still very dark. The darkness was previously exogenously given. Now the darkness is more or less endogenously given. It comes from within, which makes it even more terrifying. Sons of Perdition is, among other things, known for their spectacular album covers. This cover is no exception. The art work is a drawing by German illustrator Karmazid, which has been colored by Zebulon Whatley. "Gathered Blood" is only available digitally. You can buy it in the format of your choice (even lossless) at Bandcamp, just click on the icon (bottom left).

  

sop expandedThe new album begins with “Mul Nibiru”. I had to do some research. MUL is the cuneiform sign for “star”. “Nibiru” is the Sumerian 12th Planet according to the Cuneiform Sources popularized by pseudoscientist and pseudohistorian Zecharia Sitchin. According to him, the Sumerians knew of an extra planet beyond Pluto, Nibiru a.k.a. Planet X. It passes through our solar system every 3 600 years (the next time will be in the year of 5603) and bring cataclysmic consequences to earth (returning Planet X hypothesis). This is probably how the cataclysm will sound like. According to Zebulon Whatley "It's a curse written in ancient Sumerian. I don't remember what it says and I deliberately destroyed my notes. It was a weird night." The second song “The Opening” seems to be a nod to “Kannibalen von Rotenburg” (see below) although it differs somewhat from the story. The song is brutal with pounding drums and some scattered piano chords. The song contains monotonous chanting “I’m open myself to you” and “I offer myself to you”. The song ends in crescendo “I smother myself in the arms of you”. The third song “A Folk Artist” is almost seamlessly connected to the previous song. It’s hard to notice where the second song ends and where the third song begins. The executive summary: rhythmic drums, liturgical vocals and a choir of 100 000 doomed and restless souls. The fourth song, “The Broadsword”, stand out. It’s one of the best songs on the album. The song has a direct reference to contemporary horror writer Laird Barron’s story “The Broadsword” in his book “Occultation and Other Stories”. The protagonist, Pershing Dennard a retired field surveyor lives in aging apartment building known as the “Broadsword Hotel”. He overhears a conversation which includes murder through the air vents. Someone apparently knows he's listening and the present is, as always, linked to the past. The song begins pompously and the first line is “Hear us sing so sweetly from the cloistered vents and shaft. Up through the throat of the Broadsword Hotel”. The arrangement and instrumentation are impeccable. The slow, moaning and echo-like vocals sounds like if it has been processed through a vocoder over and over again. The fifth song, “Witches”, doesn’t belong to the highlights on the album. “Magicians, witches, crones and bitches” is repeated throughout the song. The song isn’t bad, it's just not very interesting. 

Gathered Blood 960px okoloreradThe sixth song, “A Mouldering Heart”, brings back the slow, epic and dark mood. It has the usual Sons of Perdition trademarks: slow pace, extreme darkness and well-written lyrics. “Like a sickly spider on a web, she ties her veins into a noose”. The seventh song, “No Escape from Dreamland” is an instrumental song with sampled words. The words are emanating from September 11, 1997, when a man claiming to have worked at Area 51 (a.k.a. the Area 51 Caller) called in to Coast to Coast AM (talk show). The radio station was disconnected during the call. This strange circumstance provided fuel for conspirator theorists. Read the story and the transcription here (opens in a new window). Was it “real” (in the sense perceived experiences) or just a crank call? Be that as it may, it’s a spectacular and frantic song. Zebulon Whatley master the difficult art of knitting sampled words and music together (another good example is Psalm of Slumber). The eight song, “The Shunned Ones” is a song with extreme hardness and drone-out tones. The songs ends with: “They have been left behind by the one they sacred and the one whom they maligned”. The ninth song was previously released on debut album “The Kingdom is on Fire”. The title was “Cannibals of Rotenburg” and the running time was only 1.36 minutes. It’s open to interpretation if this really is the same song since there are major differences. The “Gathered Blood” version is a morbid sing-a-long, sung in German, and the running time is 3.34 minutes. It's the gruesome story of Armin Meiwes a.k.a. Rotenburg Cannibal or Der Metzgermeister (The Master Butcher). Meiwes was a computer repair technician who achieved international notoriety for killing and eating a voluntary victim whom he had found via internet. It gives the concept of “mutual consent” a new and deeper meaning. You would be surprised if you knew how many replies he got after posting "looking for a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed" on the Cannibal Cafe website. What then follows has one fatal ending but many piquant details. If you got the stomach for it you can read about it elsewhere. It’s thoroughly documented. By the way, Armin Meiwes is nowadays a vegetarian. Anyway, you find yourself humming: "Bleib weit weit weg von Rotenburg”. This version outshines the TKIOF version. The tenth song, Lost in the Inner Heavens, is without any doubt the best song on the album. It has all the desirable epic attributes of Sons of Perdition. Zebulon Whatley has a very developed linguistic instinct and furthermore a very rich vocabulary. The lyrics in this song are no exception. This is pure escapism of the highest carat. You want to float in an isolation tank with the song lingering on in the background. The eleventh and last song is “To Call Down the Old Gods”. As always, the closing song of an album concludes what the artists want to say. The closing song should have a close connection to the themes and a scent of the atmosphere of the album. This song ticks in all boxes. “The aperture is opening…”. 

And finally, the overall assessment. Sons of Perdition will not be accused of repeating themselves. I think they have taken their music in a new direction. Not in a completely different direction, but in a slightly different direction. The sound is more dreamy, evocative and experimental compared with the previous albums. It's definitely more varied with hissing, shrieking and cracking sounds and noise, but still coherent (and very dark). And that is a good thing. This is a great album. My only complaint is the non-physical format. The end of time is coming, apparently.      

      

If you click on the icons below they will open in a new window, from left to right: Sons of Perdition's Bandcamp page (where you can buy a digital and eventually a physical copy), Sons of Perdition's Facebook page, Sons of Perdition's Homepage and lyrics for "Gathered Blood".

 

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