Here's a genre that I've never encountered before, but I don't see why it shouldn't be in scope for Apocalypse Later. Twin Temple hail from Los Angeles and play what their debut album's title called satanic doo wop. Yes, that's doo wop as in the vocal pop style from the forties and fifties that was inspired by barbershop quartets and made famous by bands like the Ink Spots. But it's Satanic and overtly so. Initially, we can't help but follow the lyrics and see this as a gimmick aiming to provoke a response, which, of course it is. However, this is Twin Temple's third album and they make this an enticing sound entirely apart from the gimmick, even if some moments lean towards the comedic, like the intro to Spellbreaker.
Part of that is because it's well written and well performed, by the duo of Alexandra and Zachary James, the former's delightfully sultry voice leading the way. Part of it, though, is in how the way in which they recorded it. For a start, they record in mono, because all their inspirations did, and it helps to age the sound. There's also a real dirtiness to it too that darkens even the perkiest parts, keeping the feel that this was originally released in 1950 but utterly buried until now. I believe the band records live, taking the best of a handful of takes of each song and that authenticity shines. It's also over quickly, wrapping up in under half an hour in a nod to history.
There are plenty of ties to rock music to call out, each of which helps explain why Twin Temple tour in support of bands like Ghost and Danzig. Opening track Burn Your Bible begins with a bell tolling in a storm, which always makes me expect Tony Iommi's guitar to follow up with an iconic riff, but, of course, it doesn't. Let's Have a Satanic Orgy isn't just doo wop, it's dark exotica, something that could easily have been recorded by Screaming Jay Hawkins, one of the true pioneers of metal. OK, Alexandra James doesn't attempt the hoots and hollers and animal noises that Hawkins peppered throughout his songs, but I heard them anyway. There's an actual guitar solo in Spellbreaker.
If the best aspect to this is how authentic the production sounds, all the way down to the dirty horn section and sleazy sax in Be a Slut, the next is how authentic the music sounds. Even if you dismiss this as nothing but a gimmick, you ought to acknowledge that these musicians aren't trampling on a genre, because they clearly know and appreciate it and have the musical talent to do this justice. "Why can’t you love Roy Orbison and hail Satan at the same time?" they ask and explore that over eight tracks that cover more ground than you might expect.
After that Sabbath style intro, Burn Your Bible sounds like a doo wop song and not a lot more, but it's very different to Let's Have a Satanic Orgy and both are very different to Black Magic, which is almost a Shirley Bassey song as it kicks off. Oddly, while seven of these tracks pop for me, meaning that the melodies and backdrop grab us as quickly as they need to in songs that rarely venture far beyond three minutes and don't always last past two and change, the one that doesn't is the title track that wraps up the album. It's the longest on offer here at four minutes and twenty and, even after a few listens, it always vanishes from my attention, sadly letting the album fade away.
I'm not sure what the audience for 21st century doo wop truly is, though I'd bet it's larger than we might expect, given how big the exotica and tiki scenes are. However, if Twin Temple didn't have a particular gimmick, I doubt they would have crossed my path and that of many other people. That they're damn good at what they do is what kept me and I look forward to seeing how long they can make this ride last before it becomes old and stale. Three albums in, it's still fresh and vibrant. God may or may not be dead but satanic doo wop is very much alive.