Saturday, 17 October 2015

MERLIN - CHRISTKILLER (Vinyl Review)


Release date: October 17th 2015. Label: Poisoned Mind Records. Format: Vinyl

Masticator EP – Tracklisting

1.Overture 2:39
2.Execution 5:32
3.Deal With The Devil 8:31
4.Lucifer’s Revenge 10:47
5.The Christkiller 10:51
6.Forever My Queen 6:10

Band Members:

Jordan Knorr - Lead Vocals
Carter Lewis - Lead Guitar, Backround Vocals, Synth
Caleb Wyels – Percussions
Ben Cornett - Rythmn Guitar
Evan Warren - Bass

Review:

Like most stories of black magik and pacts with the devil, the story of Merlin is dark, mysterious and unknown...” in this way Merlin (the band) introduces themselves on their bandcamp page, and this tale about a magical wizard dealing in a spellbinding and excellent blend of occult, psych, space doom metal has for sure been hidden buried deep in the underground for quite some time.

Now the time of haze is yet to seize, as the fairly new established DIY label Poisoned Mind Records is about to give this bleak killer the proper vinyl release it so dearly deserves including new cover artwork done by the ever so talented Joshua Wilkinson of Company Design. Come the 17. October the unholy murderer is unleashed on the hesitant horde of stoners and they will surrender at his will. There is no escaping this outing as it will be among the top of a very strong running of vinyl releases closing out 2015. A year, that already 3 quarters in has been swamped with one brilliant release after another of stoner doom psych sludge releases by both established bigger names and new and upcoming bands abound.

Christ Killer is the debut full length album, by Kansas City, Missouri’s devil bred occultists in Merlin, and it was released back in April last year. The entire album is based on the concept from the “Gladiator 2: Christ Killer” screenplay, that was never filmed, but somehow the guys behind Merlin must have thought that it needed a proper soundtrack nonetheless.

Well then, on to the music. Christ Killer opens with an instrumental ‘Overture’ comprised of unpleasant synthesizer organs setting the spirit just right for the audible exorcism that is about to take place. Listening to this song is like entering an apparently abandoned church ruin at dark night just to discover the execution of a black mass of hedonistic rituals.

Upon the next track an ‘Execution’ is about to take place and a slow march-drum and acoustic guitars mark the unset of something truly disturbing. The killer is embarking and a spree is about to commence:
Devil, please don’t take me down, all the way on down to hell. Devil, oh please don’t take me down, down to my grave. Mama’s been crying all day, ‘cause son is on that killing line. Mama’s been crying for days, is the devil coming down the line.”

This track is a shiny black pearl of groovy stoner doom that lends equal parts from Hawkwind’s kind of spaced out rock feel, Uncle Acid’s trippy catchiness and Black Sabbath’s austere riffs to procure a near perfect soundtrack to your favourite deranged horror B-movie. Besides the intro, ‘Execution’ is the shortest ‘real’ song on the album and it wastes no time in bringing all of Merlin’s qualities in to play; dark and sinister cinematic atmospheres, great melodies and killer riffs. If there is a one-stop-shop to Christ Killer and you have less than 5 minutes to get hooked, this is the track to put on first.

Third track, “Deal With The Dead”, starts with some seriously deep Gregorian chant like vocals over a slow build-up of drumming before it all kicks off into orbit with Jordan Knorr’s epic vocals soaring over a mid-paced psych-tinged stoner rock hymn. The added element of keyboards spread over the entirety of the track creates an overall creepy, mind-bending atmosphere and enforces the cinematic feel. It’s very refreshing and really sets Merlin apart from a lot of others in the genre, and in fact it’s seldom that a band is able pack this much ambience into the music without losing energy and heaviness.

On ‘Lucifer’s Revenge’ Merlin up’s the ante on the progressive level and the duration of track length. Over the course of the next 10 minutes and some the listener is taken on a backbreaking journey through Lucifer’s dark dungeons deep below mortal ground and into subsurface doom space heaven. This here is an exploratory musical science project where one is transported through various soundscapes from early 70’s progressive rock a la Yes and Pink Floyd onwards through present day space rock acts such as The Cosmic Dead. At stake on the mind blowing sonical travelogue is space doom at the pinnacle; it is not for the faint of heart and certainly NOT for the average radio-station-3-minutes-middle-of-the-road-boring-Nickelback-sobbing-dull-rock fanboy. But for whoever that dares to sit the journey through with an open mind and letting the song unfold is multiple times rewarded. This is the standout track on Christ Killer in my humble opinion.

Up next is the title track that unwinds as a soundtrack to the beginning of a never before seen Spaghetti Western, complete with bongo drums and acoustic guitar. Clear visions of a wind-scorn and desolate little prairie town emerges on the retina; a lone writer emerges from the moon-lit horizon, slowly approaching. Over half way into the track the full orchestration kicks in with some ├╝ber fuzzy steel-mounted riffs with swirling guitar leads soaring above, picking up pace, building towards the inevitable crescendo lying ahead, only to end in a fading of instruments and one final word: “done”. Hell yeah I’m done, almost like a replenishing meditation session in some Native American hut out in the desert.

The digital version of Christ Killer includes one final track, “Forever My Queen” that is a Pentagram cover. This song will however not be on the vinyl album but as the LP’s come with a download code, I find it relevant to mention this song in this context regardless and because it’s freckin’ belter.

On the final track, “Forever My Queen”, Merlin goes out with a bang. The track sets ahead at a galloping speed, bursting with stonery flames complete with Hendrixian wah-wah guitar works atop - all is in motion and moving towards stoner nirvana. Halfway through, the tempo lets up and slows down to give way for one of the heaviest riffs and most balls-out grooves of the entire album, before being brought to an almost halt leaving just enough room for a psychedelic mid-piece full of vibrant flowering colors to breathe. Again Merlin demonstrates how they are capable of seamlessly morph from a rock-solid stoner monster into a psychedelic excursion into LSD-soaked valleys. Utterly brilliant!

I recommend everyone ready to meander off the beaten musical track and with an appetite for slightly more demanding tunes to pick up the vinyl glove and accept the challenge that our good Merlin has thrown at us with Christ Killer. I for one am going to try and hunt down one of those treasures die hard LP’s that are going up for offer on Poisoned Mind Records BigCartel store later today.

Words by Niels Fuzz Bartholdy

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