South Dakotan erm, riff lords Rifflord are back with their first new album in eight years! This is surely a cause for celebration in all quarters, not least for people like you and me for whom ‘the riff’ is an important part of one’s daily existence.
The first riff you’ll hear on this new record, is, surprisingly, acoustic, as the band run through a rootsy piece of Southern-flavoured atmospherics to kick things off. When things kick in to gear properly, the first electrified riff you hear might be, quite frankly, responsible for the loss of your trousers.
Oh yes, there’s a righteous black wind blowing throughout Dead Flower Child that’s hard to resist, as Rifflord summon the spirits of such disparate flashes of riffular ectoplasm as Motörhead and latterday Corrosion of Conformity. It’s an unholy, slack-stringed racket, backed up by some fierce keyboards from Tory Jean Stoddard that pile on the overkill. And it’s nigh on perfect.
The start of next track The Other Side is even better as the band deploy several great riffs one after another before the song has even gotten a chance to get going. Once the groove sets in some of these ideas are recalled – the stentorian riff that ushers in the solo in particular is superb – and once again the keys provide a stirring wash of doom-laded portent in the background to give the superlative axes a board from which to spring. If Uriah Heep had have been nurtured in the Badlands of the Midwest instead of Tottenham’s backstreets they’d surely have sounded like this…
Coyote Fodder features, you guessed it, riffs, and a mountainous vocal from Wyatt Bronc Bartlett. Next up is Holy Roller, at a tad over four minutes the longest track on the album, but the song doesn’t waste any time in stoving the ears in with yet more over-amped mayhem. I mention the length of the song because Rifflord are great at keeping everything lean and to the point. Too many bands operating in this theatre allow everything to drag on to the point of tedium; not so these boys and girl. This means every song delivers and then nicks off before the listener’s patience has time to be tested, undoubtedly leaving the ears wanting more and keen to hear what’s coming next.
What’s coming next is the short, sharp shock of BB Gun; The shock being it’s probably the weakest (as in least good) track on the album. There’s no time to dwell on this dip in quality however, as the band launch into the triumphant space rock of Transcendental Meditation straightaway after, and it’s one of the highlights of the album. Doomy yet catchy riffage, wah-filled solos, spaceship noises – everything you need for a night of drug fuelled lunacy is here, although you’ll have to bring your own lava lamps. Poison Mother is a keyboard-driven groover with vocals supplied by Stoddard, lurching along on a galumphing mixture of blues and addled psychosis, the switch from male to female vocal giving the track a crucial point of difference, as does the reliance on swirling keys come time for a brief solo.
Electric Grave is pure psychedelic doom; howling vocals, tortured riffs, elephantine drums – you know the drill. Following track sees the band delivering their absolute best with the seething, febrile The Riffman Cometh; another track with a spacey vibe, the stomping riffwork builds to a sludgy peak that somehow evokes thoughts of an unholy Frankenstein experiment involving Gene Simmons and Tom Warrior; Whoever thought of this union is clearly a genius, albeit an evil one. And whoever thought to throw in a brilliant Geezer Butler sample deserves a medal. This is reefer madness in excelsis, electric mayhem at it’s finest, heavy fucking metal in it’s essence. And it’s flaming groovy, let me tell youse…
Penultimate track Hou Dou Vou Dou consolidates but can’t improve, unsurprisingly, but it’s still got plenty going for it, and final track, the strangely names Thunder Rider Cremation Ground Meditation rounds things out at high volume, torturing those already battered amps just a little more as the band hurtle hell bent for leather into the abyss.
Not many albums keep the attention from start to finish these days, especially ‘stoner doom’ efforts – but these electrical ambassadors will have you in the palm of their greased up mitts as soon as you cop an earload, let me tell you. This is very special stuff indeed. Now, where can I get one of the limited edition leather-sleeved vinyl copies of the album?
7 Cremation Ground / Meditation is released on December 1st.