Archive for September, 2019

Dark Entries Magazine – Gothic Roots “Dust To Dust” Album Review

dark roots musicGothic rootsgothic countrySouthern Gothic or dark Americana are terms used to describe the music of Heathen Apostles. The band operates from Los Angeles, California and their first album dates from 2013. So basically it is traditional American country and folk, bluegrass or ‘hillbilly’ music with a black edge and akin to genres such as cowpunk, gothabilly or hellbilly (think of Ghoultown , Gravetown or DAD ) but also alt-country (bands like Whiskeytown , 16 Horsepower or Woven Hand ) or the murder ballads of Nick Cave for example .

Several musicians from Heathen Apostles also have a past in similar bands. One musician is punk rock veteran Chopper Franklin (guitar, banjo, mandolin, keyboards, drums and also responsible for the production) and he has a history in The Cramps , Nick Curran & The Lowlifes and Mau Maus . Singer Mather Louth previously sang with Radio NoirThomas Lorioux (standing bass) was in The Kings Of Nuthin’ and former drummer Stevyn Grey had a history with Christian Death and 45 Grave. The current line-up also includes  violinist Luis Mascaro .

“Dust To Dust” (13 tracks, 53 minutes playing time), the fifth album from Heathen Apostles, appearing again on Ratchet Blade Records , a label specialized in such bands. The three men in the band look like black suited cowboys in nineteenth-century outfits and the singer from the company like a Victorian lady from the same period and also with a black hat just like her male colleagues.

My criticism of the previous release, “Bloodgrass Vol. 1 “ EP, was that it was very good, but that it could be a bit darker and musically more gothic or punk, because it was more pure Americana than a real crossover into the gothic roots genre. It seems whether this criticism was completely taken to heart because this is fully true on “Dust To Dust”. Just listen to the magnificent opening song “Burn It To The Ground” with cello, rocking electric guitar and some sort of panting whisper, followed by the uplifting up-tempo folky (sounding like a horse hopping over the prairie) song  “Rise”. “The Bride”, with whisper singing in the stanzas and catchy melancholic wailing violin playing, is also one of the toppers. We are also served dark roots murder ballads such as “Home Sweet Holmes”, drinking songs such as “Two For The Road” in addition to quite a few more compelling songs.

gothic roots musicI can imagine most songs in an interpretation of Inkubus Sukkubus . Inkubus Sukkubus fans who like a more ‘country’ or ‘bluegrass’ version of their beloved goth rock / folk band should definitely check out these Heathen Apostles. The same goes for goths who like Johnny Cash , by the way!

All songs on this album were written by the Louth / Franklin duo with one exception: the traditional “In The Pines”. “In The Pines” is a powerful song that I already knew in a different version and about which I hurt my brain for days, from where I knew this song. The song was often attributed to Leadbelly but is actually older and not composed by Leadbelly himself. The composer disappeared in the darkness of time – as is usually the case with traditionals and that is what traditionals are for. So the song is often attributed to the legendary folk and blues singer Leadbelly (Huddie William Ledbetter , 1880-1949) because he recorded one of the first versions under the name “Black Girl”and I also have this on CD but it was not this version that haunted me. No, that turned out to be Nirvana ‘s. They release this song on the album “MTV Unplugged In New York” (1994) under the title “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” . The song is also attributed to Leadbelly on the Nirvana album, which is in fact incorrect. In any case, the version that Heathen Apostles brings here is enchantingly beautiful, dramatic and sensitive sung and accompanied by banjo and violin with the sound of the wind at the end and certainly not inferior to that of Leadbelly nor that of Kurt Cobain and co. Top album! Rating: 9 of 10 stars

Hard Americana Album Review of Dust to Dust By Indy Metal Review

Hard Americana Chris Latta of Indy Metal Review had a great take (and an ‘A’ rating!) on the Gothic, Hard Americana flavor of the new Heathen Apostles album Dust To Dust (which is actually the band’s fifth album)…

While Heathen Apostles’ third album is their first proper full-length since 2015’s Fire to the Fuse, it fits right in with the EPs that were released in between. The two Bloodgrass volumes set up a foreboding direction for the gothic country group’s already dark sound that Dust to Dust is happy to develop even further. There’s a sense of buildup as tempos are decidedly slower and one can detect tension in the air throughout.

This tension is especially potent during the album’s first half. “Burn it to the Ground” makes for a scorching call to arms right off the bat, riding an ominous verse complete with a chorus whose vocals manage to alternate between whispers and Disturbed-esque pants without sounding too silly. “One True Belief” and “The Bride” make for additional highlights thanks to their exotic yet sinister rhythms. “Home Sweet Holmes” is easily the most stirring of the lot, an inevitability when you pair up an electrifying twang with a narrative about The Devil in the White City…

Of course, there are plenty of lower key moments to be found as well. “Paradise Lost” features a subtler structure compared to the album’s more in your face moments, but its slow burn is tastefully executed. “Where the Waters Meet” follows it up with more abstract rhythms and “In the Pines” is a gorgeous update of a folk ballad classic. There’s also something to be said for the upbeat simplicity on “Two for the Road” and “The Fall.”

Through it all, the musicianship is exceptional. The alto vocals exhibit a variety of husky croons, esoteric whispers, and sneered spoken word that work to see through the stories they tell. The foundations are carried by a sturdy of guitar, banjo, and mandolin that avoid getting too cluttered and the occasional violin makes for gorgeous texturing. The drums also deserve props for playing the right amount, providing energy during the most intense sequences without getting too overbearing.

Hard Americana

Despite a four-year gap between full-lengths, Heathen Apostles’ third album sustains their momentum quite nicely. Dust to Dust doesn’t stray too far from the gothic country sound set up by its predecessors, but a thematic symbiosis of dark barn burners and more subtle ventures results in what may be the band’s most powerful effort to date. This isn’t the most revolutionary album by any means, but fans of more macabre persuasions are encouraged to check it out.

Highlights:
“Burn it to the Ground”
“One True Belief”
“The Bride”
“Paradise Lost”
“Home Sweet Holmes”

Editor Grade A