Songs of Love and Death REVIEW
Adding a title to something I write was never my strength. I'm more of a content person. That being said, if I were to title this entry, it would be something like "Diversion" or "Dichotomy". Maybe even "Tangents"....or maybe I'll just stick with what I'm good at and just start talking about the album. This round is about an album called....drum roll please.........."Songs of Love and Death". Behemoth front man Nergal and musician/songwriter/poet John Porter are Me and That Man. This album is a tangent and a long roadtrip away from Nergal's last piece "The Satanist", an album I consider to be a masterpiece. Set to release on March 24, you can be assured, I'll have my copy. Until then, with a tiny bit of searching on Youtube, you can find five tracks from the album. My advice is to follow my method. Give it a listen, then watch the video. It makes the emotional aspects of music like this kick harder.
Comment sections on any Youtube video are often a cess pool of internet trolls and poorly formed thoughts. For example, let's talk about the person that said "stick with screaming" in reference to Nergal's clean vocals. I vehemently disagree. I think his clean vocals are perfect for it. This music is dark and melodic with a rough edge. It explores the type of subject matter you would see on a Tom Waits or Johnny Cash album. Perfectly engineered top 40 pop music style vocals don't mesh with this style. If the lack of screams doesn't sit well with you then stick with Behemoth albums. We agree, yes? Good. I still think you're missing out if you don't give it a listen. On to the tracks.......
"My Church is Black"
I particularly enjoy this one. It hits all the same nerves in me as the original "House of the Rising Sun". It makes me feel like I'm trudging down a crowded city street in the heat of the summer surrounded by drone like human forms that march in unison. I struggle through the crowd, the only one out of step, intent on leaving them and their false sunny hopes behind. I don't need false hope because I know the path I will take. I think a lot of the appeal with songs like this is that it puts me in a world where everything has that amber cast that old film strips develop. It takes me out of such a technologically advanced and overstressed world into a less complex time where being yourself doesn't take altering things to keep the social media crowd happy.
This song is catchy as fuck. It has a driving tempo that will likely make me get a speeding ticket at some point, which I suppose is ironic considering it's a “green” song to me. Green like money....which I'll spend....if I drive too fast and get pulled over by a traffic cop.
Porter and that harmonica....you don't need a taste for folk, blues, or country to see how much he rocks with it. Also, kudos for singing “kicked you in the balls” and giving it bluesy catchy awesomeness.
“Ain't Much Lovin”
Here is the type of tune where I'd expect someone to stand up from the bar, grab the guitar and go for it. Just picture that in your head. It feels like equal parts a personal statement and one about the world, and makes the air around me a deep gloomy gray. “Ain't much lovin' anymore.......”
Before any tracks from this album were released, people kept (and still are) saying “Nergal's gone country”. Of the few I've heard off this album, this is the only one that even skirts the edge of being country. Perhaps the ones I haven't heard yet are the purported “country” tunes? I don't know. Either way, this one comes the closest in my opinion.
After a couple of plays, I realized how much the imagery in my head reminded me of a song that came out in the 80's by Hank Williams Jr and Waylon Jennings called “The Conversation”. In the video, Hank and Waylon are sitting opposite of each other singing and “conversing” about Hank Sr. The significant point here is that you could replace the two of them with Nergal and John, replace the music with “Steppenwolf”, and it would fit perfectly. It conjurs images of a dive bar with the classic dark wood furnishings and the only light is coming from the booze wall behind the bartender or a neon sign. It has that tone to it that sits somewhere between deep red and that nearly black shade of rich soil. I guess you either grow from it or get buried in it.
Come to think of it, I don't know if gothic folk western is a thing, but the name fits the imagery in my head. All five songs I've heard so far could be the soundtrack to a night drive through the desert to parts unknown, or a dim and disturbing western movie. You know those movies where the lighting is so low that you have to shut off the lights movie theater style to adequately see it on your screen? Like that......
“Cross My Heart and Hope to Die”
That slow marching back beat immediately made me think of a 19th century railroad crew swinging their hammers in unison. Then the vocals came in and the image fit. I can totally see someone working himself to death on the hottest day while singing those lyrics to the sound of hammers in the background. In case you were wondering if a guy who usually screams and growls epic poems to the Dark Lord can sing a song with such a title, know this....There's just enough emotion in Nergal's voice to validate the image and not make it sound forced. Also youth choirs......just humor me and give it a listen. Hearing young voices singing “we ain't comin' for forgiveness”, makes the whole experience that much more ominous. (Nice touch, gentlemen). The effect would have simply not been the same if it were adult voices.
I suppose it's ironic that this is a black song to me, considering that the song with black in the title is amber to me. There seems to be a lot of irony floating around this entry.
This is a legitimately great album. As with any time any artist with a devoted following switches genres, some will love it, some won't. The over all quality of this project is really really good. It will make you feel like you walked out of a movie scene where wild west rules prevail, but it isn't necessarily the wild west.....like the days are blinding white in the sun and the nights are impenetrable dark.....but through it all, you remain who you are despite all. You change for no one but yourself.
And I still won't call it country.