Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Rogue Transmissions: The Vitasound Projects – American Werewolf In London (album review)

Cover artwork by Kerry Fewster.
Written and recorded over the course of six years by Leeds-based guitarist Ade Mincher, this album sets the John Landis film An American Werewolf in London against a stoner metal / sludge / post-metal soundscape.  Audio clips from the movie are spread strategically throughout the album to highlight the key narrative points to tell the nearly complete story of the film though the album is only 42 minutes long.

I love albums like this, this is pure inspiration.  Don’t get me wrong, the world isn’t exactly drowning in this type of musical project, but every now and then you’ll come across a true concept album.  More than film score / re-scoring and not precisely an instrumental album, Mincher is free from the burdens of traditional popular song structures while jammed into the tight confines of the narrative.  The freedom allows Mincher to go anywhere he wants, but the limiting factor of the narrative puts a border around such expansive territory.  The combination is enough to unleash the full potential of any creative mind and Mincher comes up aces here.

Of course, the storyline itself isn’t the only limiting factor, the underlying emotional punch of the storyline must be delivered at the same time.  Though the film is fondly remembered as one with a sense of humor, there are times when emotions run at a fever pitch, protagonist David’s extreme dread is often undercut by a silly counterpoint provided by the restless spirits of his friend and victims.  Mincher is at his best when tensions are at their highest, sympathizing tangibly with David’s plight.  Madcap intensity peels back from the edges of sanity before the final inescapable truth is accepted and ultimately embraced.

Opening number “The Slaughtered Lamb”, sweats and shrivels with nervous energy and trepidation as protagonist David and his friend Jack enter the public house to be greeted by a hostile environment.  As mentioned above, audio clips from the film are spread throughout.  The music shuts down as the pair are ejected from the pub to proceed “Beware the Moon”.  The omniscient viewpoint remains with the pub patrons while regretful strains pick the music back up.  The protagonists eventually find themselves on the forbidden moors as tension builds musically.  Micher displays skill and a sympathetic ear straight off even as the album and the ideas behind it only begin to take shape.

Later, our protagonist begins to accept that he is a werewolf on the song “Jack”.  Musically, it’s a conversation, an exploration of what it is to be a werewolf.  A hunched kind of stalking, menacing riff builds tension and gets the idea of the werewolf just right.  We all have a bit of the werewolf in us, the hunter, the killer.  It’s the not-so-secret truth of society.  It’s, apparently, the reason we are governed by laws, both secular and religious.  We all have someone in our lives, or know of someone who is basically walking upright because of society’s rules.  Those animalistic tendencies are behind the surface of all of our interactions.  A film like Werewolf in London explores these ideas without smashing you over the head with them, but it’s striking to see a hulking, murderous beast in Piccadilly Square.  Mincher’s Vitasound Project brings those elements to the surface, as “Jack”s disjointed riffing speaks directly to your “inner beast”.  “Prowler” is a creepy tune which, as you may imagine, slithers with a lurking feel, while tension builds via syncopation as David prepares for the inevitable conclusion on “Jack the Reprise”.

Many scores of underground metal bands use film clips in their music, either before or after a song, a practice perhaps most popularized in the stoner/doom genre by Electric Wizard.  The title track from Blood Farmers forthcoming album does an incredible job of interpolating audio clips with lyrics and mood, the effect is akin to a post-modern take on the traditional call-and-response verse.  But as far as I know, few if any albums have surfaced like this one.  It’s not an everyday kind of album with a clutch of hit singles and it isn’t happy, good times party music, but it gets a particular mood just right.  It might not be what you’re expecting “horror music” to sound like, but it is tonally appropriate for the subject film.  In other words, this album is certainly not for everyone, but I recommend you check it out.

Highlights include: "Jack" and "Beware the Moon"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 42:39

From: Leeds, England

Genre: Post-Metal, Stoner Metal, Sludge

Reminds me of: Jeff Wayne, Megachurch, Nova Sico

Release Date: January 31, 2014

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