Wednesday 1 December 2021

The Kings of Frog Island - VII (2021)

Country: UK
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Dec 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Wikipedia | YouTube

My modus operandi here at Apocalypse Later Music is to follow up an album by someone new who you may not have heard with one by someone established who you either have or should have. In this instance, it's the latter for me, because I'd never heard of the Kings of Frog Island (which is an urban area in the city of Leicester) but noticed that this is their seventh album and thought I should check it and them out. I'm very happy that I did because this is cool stuff indeed, man.

It's psychedelic rock with a fuzzy stoner edge and some interesting shifts into other genres. To be all inclusive, they describe what they do as "heavy psychedelic space rock, stoner, doom, trippy, ambient and drop tuned rock." How many bases does that cover? What feels weirdest to me is the way that it's highly consistent while feeling like the focus changes throughout. It's the pace that stays consistent, while I imagined what happens over it as a series of microphone exchanges.

As far as I'm aware, everything's played by the same members and Wikipedia lists five of them. It also highlights a string of collaborators, so I have no idea who does what. However, I imagined the list of guests as an impressive one, especially given that many of them are dead and I'd be rather shocked if the rest showed up to lend their talents.

For instance, Beyond the Void kicks off the album like the Sisters of Mercy taking on a Hawkwind cover under a layer of stoner rock fuzz, so that's Andrew Eldritch at the mike, but he quickly hands over to Syd Barrett for All the Kings Horses, which feels very much like early Pink Floyd scoring an acid western. He hands over in turn to Iggy Pop for Blackened Soul, but the trance state that that song introduced continues. After Pop comes John Kongos on Summer Sun, which he clearly wrote as well. That's quite the string of guests, I'm sure you'd agree.

This could all be sped up to find a Hawkwind vibe but, after Beyond the Void, that doesn't seem to be anywhere on the Kings' collective agendas. This remains slow, as if they're insistent on mellow trips, even if they have a darkness to them. It's telling that the darkest songs end each half of the album, Dopamine the first and Superego the second. The latter mixes the groove of an early Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds song with the patience of solo Cave later on. It's a gorgeous song and quite an epic one, running almost eight minutes and never once feeling long.

If you're starting to imagine which other guests might be here, it's Jim Morrison on Rain, which is extra-fuzzy to back the Lizard King. He hands over to Peter Murphy for Empire, which also sees an interesting change on guitar, with Marco Pirroni stepping in with a simple but effective dark riff. I can't put my finger on who's on The Silver Arrow, which is bugging me because it's so familiar, but the song is another one with extra fuzz, surely the most stoner rock piece on the album. And that really doesn't prepare us for Five Hours, which brings in all four Beatles, under the firm influence of LSD.

This is fascinating stuff to me, in part because whoever is singing doesn't really change what he's doing from song to song but he still manages to manifest as so many legendary and mostly dead rock icons. I adore the patience of the musicians behind him too, as this is stubbornly slow without ever turning into doom. I just wish I knew who all these folk are. And I dearly wish that they have a half dozen other albums behind them already so that I can immerse myself in their fluid music. Oh wait, they do, as recently as IV last year and as early as a self titled album in 2005. Life is good!

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