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

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