Monday, 23 December 2013

Space God Ritual - Eldritch Tales (album review)

Space God Ritual originally appeared in 2010 with an E.P. called 'From Beyond the Beyond', then re-emerged in 2011 with the 'Pay the Price' demo album.  By then, the band was a three piece with band leader / composer Brendan Butler buffeted by guitarists Vinny Dee and Lee Waldron who also took up vocal duties.  After the group re-emerged this year with a new album ('R'lyeh Beckons'), now as a duo featuring Alexander Olaff on vocals with Butler the only constant those early efforts were taken down from the group's bandcamp page, supposing it was time to move on and forge ahead.  The ingredients were there on the early demos, but the right pieces hadn't fallen exactly into place.

It would seem that Butler, who is a virtual home recording machine spent much of 2012 finding a suitable vocalist / collaborator and working up his strongest material because the year 2013 has seen a deluge of it flood out.  Olaff appears to bring out the best in Butler, and perhaps vice versa.  The song "Necromantic Woman" has been around from the beginning, appearing on SGR's initial E.P. but finds new life and new energy here with Olaff at the helm.  There's no question that Olaff is a better vocalist and that the project has been re-invigorated by the synergy of the two collaborators.  The pieces have now fallen into place.

'Eldritch Tales' is Space God Ritual's second album within a span of six months but it's also the third full-length album released by the duo (Brendan Butler [instruments] & Alexander Olaff [vocals], while also featuring guest leads by Kalvin Williams) this year if you include their other incarnation of Booze Lords's 'Legion of the Tankard'.  Of course, that's only the stuff that I know about.  You know how it is with these home recording do-it-yourselfers, they're always into something ...

'Eldritch Tales' is an eight song collection of Lovecraftian gems which kicks off with the short, organ-fueled intro "The Elder Door", leading into the excellent "Madness!".  Straight off we hear mention of Yog Sothoth and though we don't get the oft-quoted poem by the Providence author, we know who is the key and the gate.  The album is positively steeped in the famous author's mythos and syntax.  Nearly every song has mention of tentacles, secrets, madness and the like, let alone the album's title.  The title alone should give potential listener's a big, flashing neon-lit CLUE as to what the album is about lyrically and in terms of feel.  It should come as no surprise anyway to those familiar with the band's previous effort, 'R'lyeh Beckons'.  Musically, most pundits seem to agree that 'Eldritch Tales' is the stronger of the two albums, which is true in a broad sense, though the former album has it's share of moments as well [and you can check it out here].  One nice surprise found on 'Eldritch Tales' though is the keyboard embellished, Andre Norton inspired "Web of the Witch World" which was the title of her second Witch World novel from 1964, telling a sword & sorcery sci fi story from this underrated series.  Musically, it stands apart from its sibling songs, and it can either be a jarring listen or a refreshing one depending on the listener's mood.

'Eldritch Tales' took a little while to catch on with me, but it eventually found its footing and became one of my favorite records of the month.  There's more catchy moments on here than many band's entire discographies.  Every song, as a matter of fact, is a memorable standout.  Olaff stepped up to the plate in a major way, playing the role of the pusher man, getting you hooked while Butler injects those doomy riffs to your veins.  "Madness!" (currently setting a torch to the Doom Charts: Top 25 Songs list!), "The Mad Alhazred", "Necromantic Woman" and the aformentioned "Web of the Witch World" find a comfortable seat in your brain and catnap there before springing to life at unexpected times.  Call it a leap forward, call it a newfound ability, whatever it is, SGR have found the winning formula here, let's just hope they don't go too far into the unknown depths of the infinite of their own creative brilliance and be driven mad by what they find there.

'Eldritch Tales' is full of tragic figures from doomed men of science to (nec)romantic women all of which makes suitable subject matter for downtuned riffs.  Italian label Radioactive Records has not failed to notice and has also released the album on bandcamp for download.  For now you can download the album from the band's bandcamp page as a pay-what-you-want deal.  Type '0' in the dialogue box if you want it as a FREE download although I always suggest supporting the artists, even with a couple dollars.  These guys don't want to be rock stars or anything, just drink beers and unleash hell for the pure love of it.

Highlights include: "Madness!" and "Necromantic Woman"

Rating: 5/5

Total Run Time: 40:13

From: Portland, Oregon

Genre: Doom

Reminds me of: Blue Aside, Ice Dragon, Saint Vitus, Sci-Fi paperbacks, Space Mushroom Fuzz

Release Date: October 20, 2013 / re-issued by Radioactive Records on November 25, 2013

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