Friday 8 May 2020

Baleful Creed - The Lowdown (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Stoner/Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 May 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Official Website

I may have started thinking about filters when Shania Twain released Up! in 2002 in three different versions. Each featured the exact same songs but was done in a different genre, resulting in a pop album, a country album and a world music album. It was like her producer had just applied a genre filter in the studio to change the base into other styles. I thought about filters again here because this sounds precisely like a stoner rock album but really kind of isn't. It's a hard rock album with a stoner rock filter applied.

I haven't heard Baleful Creed before but I have seen that name come up often in New Wave of Classic Rock circles so I was eager to check this third album out. It's really interesting stuff, once we get used to the sound. It looks like they're calling it "doom blues boogie", which is an intriguing take and an oddly fair one. A easier to grasp description would be Kyuss Plays Danzig and for a lot of reasons.

Just check out the opener, Mr. Grim, a title which would work gloriously as a description of Glenn Danzig. For one, it's stubbornly paced, so that it's upbeat without being fast. There's as much value in not playing some of the notes as playing others, as it all contributes to the feel. For another, the verses chug behind the vocals and build to catchy, escalated choruses that are still somehow deliberately subdued. And, for the most obvious, vocalist Fin Finlay has that satanic croon down pat, not just in the control but the phrasing. He just applies that stoner rock filter.

Now, that doesn't mean that Danzig is everything here. Mr. Grim's riffs have a grounding in Black Sabbath, which shouldn't surprise, and the chorus is a little bit Clutch and a little bit Scorpions, which might. The Phoenix, with its highly audible bass, finds moments to channel the Cult, both through the guitars and the vocals. End Game does that even more. There's a psychedelic guitar solo from John Allen in Tramalamapam along with a bass solo from Davy Greer too.

Riled Up, perhaps appropriately given its title, has a bit more urgency to it, again like Clutch and that name keeps cropping up too on this album. In fact that Kyuss Plays Danzig elevator pitch starts to change because of it. Baleful Creed seem to work on a scale that has Clutch at one end and Danzig at the other and move back and forth as they choose. Songs like Riled Up or Confused are more towards the Kyuss Plays Clutch end, while other songs like Mr. Grim and The Phoenix stay more at the Kyuss Plays Danzig end.

I rather like this sound, though it felt odd for a while for what could have been perky rock songs to be weighted down so much by the stoner rock filter. I think the point I really adapted to that additional gravity was on Line of Trouble, which is a ballad. Sure, it's so much heavier than it seems like it ought to be, but it sounds damn good and the ever-present bass of Davy Greer elevates it like it did so many other songs here.

It didn't hurt that perhaps my favourite song on the album comes right after Line of Trouble. That's Southgate of Heaven, another song at the Danzig end of that scale but with the addition of some absolutely sublime keyboards, a layer of heavy organ right out of the seventies, and even a harmonica too, a further contribution by David Jeffers, who otherwise handles the drums here. Both add a whole extra dimension that suddenly the rest of the album seems to be missing.

Yet, going back to start again with Mr. Grim that features neither of those extras, it still sounds great. That's how we know this is a strong album.

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