Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blood Cult: We Who Walk Behind the Rows (2005)

Hey folks! I'm Faulty, and hopefully you'll be seeing me around from now on. Sharpshooter has been kind enough to offer me blogging privileges, so I'll be throwing down some reviews of music I love, hate or am otherwise indifferent towards. While Sharpshooter tends to review recent releases, I'll be covering plenty of less recent material. I mainly listen to black metal, with some noise, power electronics and death industrial thrown in, so that's what you'll be seeing from me, more or less. To start things off, here's a review of Blood Cult's 2005 debut album, We Who Walk Behind the Rows.

There's been no end to songs about black metal. I've heard “Unholy Black Metal”, “Christraping Black Metal”, “Black Metal ist Krieg” and, of course, “Black Metal”, but “Redneck Black Metal” is something I never expected I'd hear. Illinois' Blood Cult have made it though, and their blend of old school black metal with a Midwestern sensibility and sound takes what could be ridiculous blend and turns it into music that is both unique and excellent. Having been around since '94, it's not surprising that Blood Cult's core sound and often Satanic lyrics are inspired by the second wave Norwegian bands, but there's a twist to it that's evident from the start. The cover looks like the scene of a Satanic sacrifice amidst fields of corn, complete with an ominous looking scarecrow. The title, We Who Walk Behind The Rows, produces imagery of evil cultists, dwelling in the plains, stalking the rows of corn and fertilizing them with the remains of their sacrifices, and the music follows suit.

Blood Cult's sound is a fusion of a filthy take on old school black metal with a Midwestern stew of rock, heavy metal and thrash, with a generous use of solos. Opener “Psychic Vampire” starts with a rock beat and evolves into a groove-laden mid-tempo track with a grungy atmosphere and excellent bass work, complete with a rock guitar solo backed by stoner rock inspired rhythm guitar. “The Morweaqua Coal Mine Disaster” is an old school black metal track, complete with the Gorgoroth inspired trope of having one guitar play the pertinent riff before the rest of the music comes in. The song surprisingly ends with a variation of Chopin's “Funeral March”, which is genuinely touching given the lyrical theme of the song, namely a disaster in a coal mine that left tens of miners dead. “Cheap Guitars” is a catchy as Hell blackened rock song with a thrashy chorus and a wild thrash solo, as well as some background singing for variance at one point and King Diamond inspired falsetto at the end of the track. “We Who Walk Behind the Rows” is another black metal blaster that ends with a rock inspired solo. “Owl” is a slow and brooding track that provides a breather before another intense old school black metal track, “A Cult of Blood”, which sports a dynamic second half centred around an interplay between melody and lead guitar. The tongue-in-cheek “Redneck Black Metal” is a mid-paced, Midwest track complete with cowbell, piano and a blues rock guitar solo that gives way to a more intense heavy metal solo that brings the track to an energetic end. Finally, “Illinoisan Thunder” closes the album with final blast of black metal and thrash soloing. The mix is completed by the aforementioned combination of Satanism and a Children of the Corn-esque Midwestern horror theme (e.g. “the crops are alive and they want you to die”).

While this wild mix could come off as awkward, Blood Cult's unique riffing and their ability to draw all the influences into a concrete whole turns it into an uncanny and interesting mix. Tongue-in-cheek songs like “Cheap Guitars” and “Redneck Black Metal”, and Midwestern themed tracks like “We Who Walk Behind the Rows” and “Illinoisan Thunder” point to why their mix is so effective; they embrace the feel of their home state, rather than aping Norwegian themes of dark nights and freezing forests. The mix is, in essence, completely natural. They are clearly serious about their art, but don't take their art too seriously. In that sense, their attitude is reminiscent of Darkthrone, which is in no way a bad thing. The album is also helped by its short length, which prevents any track or idea from outstaying its welcome. Unfortunately, this is also a downside to the album; it leaves you wanting more, at least another track or two. Still, it's slightly preferable to their sophomore album We Are the Cult of the Plains, which is ever-so-slightly too long.

All in all, We Who Walk Behind the Rows is an incredibly unique album. Its fusion of the sound and Satanic lyrics of old school black metal with themes and stylings drawn from their Midwest upbringing leads to a listening experience you're unlikely to find elsewhere. It won't blow your mind, but it's sure as Hell enjoyable, and any fan of interesting takes on black metal should give it a try.



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