Review by Paul Castles
A Black Sea is an interesting, if unconventional piece of work. It’s an amalgamation of two bands from St Louis, The Lion’s Daughter and Indian Blanket. The former are, on the surface at least, a death metal trio while Indian Blanket are an entirely less angry bunch, whose gentle sympathetic sound is essentially folk-based. The two bands join forces here meaning we switch from clean harmonic vocals to throaty death metal.
It’s not an easy combination and the two distinct styles are not always the most comfortable of bedfellows. On ‘Song For The Devil’, for example, Indian Blanket vocalist Joe Andert’s vocals are cleaner than a rugby kit that’s just had the benefit of the Persil treatment, the melodic mood wandering quite happily into folk territory in places against the backdrop of a soothingly strummed guitar. The cleanly struck chords are there again on ’Timeless Waters’ another restless ramble through the fields but this time with neither vocalist being called into action. It might seem at this point that the ‘off’ switch is looking inviting but then ‘Sea of Trees’ goes off like a firecracker backed by a scything guitar rhythm that breaks through the desolation in merciless fashion as Rick Giordano opens his vocal box to the max before barking like a manic mutt whose outstayed its welcome at the dogs’ home.
While The Lion’s Daughter and Indian Blanket mix ‘n metal match appears adventurous and bold, ultimately it’s neither one thing or the other. If you want to be steamrollered by an aggressive wall of death metal then you’re unlikely to purchase an album that only gives you that fix on two or three of the seven tracks. When the harmonies and softly spoken vocals swoon in as they do straight after ‘Sea of Trees’ on ‘That Place’ and ‘Moonshiner’ all momentum is lost and the mood destroyed. On its own they’re fine songs with a degree of inventiveness and a warmth pulsing through.
The pick of the bunch is the opener ‘Wolves’ which paints a vivid landscape of purity in the early stages before the unexpected death metal vocals of Giordano kick in to shatter the sanctuary and solitude. ‘Swann’ also sees The Lion’s Daughter assert with a heavy demonstrative doom-laden tablet of torture. Quite what the folky fellows of Indian Blanket do while this is in full flow is anyone’s guess. Probably get the kettle on.
The unlikely collaboration was apparently derived with a view to recording one song but the two parties hit it off so well that the idea grew into a whole album. We only have to take a peek behind the doors of No.10 to know that coalitions rarely run smoothly. On A Black Sea It’s simply a case that the two disparate entities don’t complement each other that well and the listener – well, me in this case – struggles to come to terms with the diversity of it all.
Although united for one recent home town show to launch the album, it’s unlikely that the contents of A Black Sea will be performed on stage again as the two groups are now set to return to their own corners. That, I feel, is probably for the best.
6 out of 10
- Gods Much More Terrible
- A Song For The Devil
- Timeless Waters
- Sea Of Trees
- That Place