Heathen Apostles Reviews
A review of the new Heathen Apostles’ video for Death’s Head has been released on the Russian music blog ViolaNoir. Here is the English translation:
A new music video and single has been released by probably the most prominent representatives of Gothic Americana at the moment – the Heathen Apostles. In Death’s Head there is everything for their audience: a blues mood, the occult, voodoo, a blatant and magnificent Gothic vibe and the powerful voice of Mather Louth.
The video and single were released in conjunction with Friday the 13th, and it was also the day before Valentine’s Day, and the connection is not lost. Death’s Head tells the story of love, turning into hate, then hate turning into love, and it’s a tale of a stolen heart and also that sometimes even death do us part. The Heathen Apostles again create a stunning painting, visually there is nothing superfluous; the atmosphere and mood of the song go back and forth, even in the smallest details. Definitely one of the best videos lately.
Read the review (in Russian) HERE.
Watch the Death’s Head video HERE.
If there is such a thing in the current fringe roots genre as a supergroup, it would certainly be the Los Angeles-based dark roots and alt-country band Heathen Apostles, whose participating artists include ex-members of Radio Noir (Mather Louth), The Cramps (Chopper Franklin), Kings of Nuthin’ (Thomas Lorioux), and Christian Death (Stevyn Grey) in its ranks. That is one hell of a lineup. And their collective musical output is equally impressive.
Heathen Apostles made quite an entrance on to the scene with their debut full-length album, Boot Hill Hymnal. And now, this gothic outsider country and dark roots quintet have written and released a new EP of material on Ratchet Blade Records, titled Without A Trace. This three-song release is a worthy follow-up to Boot Hill Hymnal, even though the three songs go by all too quickly at a little over ten minutes. Quite simply, this is one of those quality over quantity things.
Without A Trace opens with the EP’s title track, moving from wild Irish folk-like fiddle, a beat akin to marching drums, and punctuating strums, to somewhat of a country punk bit, all with Louth’s strong vocals. “Before You Go,” the second track, is a slower gothic country offering, with clear strumming, string picking, a beat that carries the song structure forward, subtle yet effective bass, and Louth’s voice at its most hauntingly beautiful on the EP. The Closer, “Lily of the West,” is a countrified murder ballad and arguably the best song on the release.
Read the review on Examiner.com HERE.
Preview Without A Trace HERE.
Without A Trace
Ratched Blade Records, EP (Download)
4 of 5 stars
“The mastermind of the Heathen Apostles is Chopper Franklin (The Cramps, Nick Curran, etc. ). They describe themselves and their music as ” … southern gothic imagery surrounded by haunting, minor-chord melodies, helmed by the voice of a evocative indigo child, unstuck in time … ” Unfortunately there are only three songs on the EP, but they are in a league of their own, Americana at it’s best. Whoever likes Bob Wayne, Hank III and friends, should get these songs.”
Get DYNAMITE Magazine HERE (it’s in German).
Redwood Bar and Grill
Fifteen hours at the mundane didn’t stop me. Unusual cold weather for Los Angeles didn’t stop me. Killing time in Echo Park didn’t stop me. Six dollars to my name didn’t stop me. Nothing stopped me on this particular Monday’s eve from attending the Heathen Apostles record release party at the Redwood in downtown L.A.
The lot was free and so was the show, so that fit my budget just grand. Apparently the lure of free entry appealed to others as well as there was a damn good turnout on a night that otherwise could have been a death null. Seems the buzz surrounding Heathen Apostles is sweater than sugar.
Despite being close to the Heathen Apostles’ set time, frankly hoping to dig the show and then go man go, I discovered there was still another band slated before the headliners. Good thing extra added adrenaline surged my veins when I hit the fabled décor. It enabled me to rage. The band was called “Red Rose” and I do recall I liked them more and more as their set progressed. I liked the bass player. She was cute. She walked by me later as the night progressed, and didn’t even take a look. Alas, she doesn’t know I exist.
The period wear sported by various members of Heathen Apostles sparked interest amongst the barflies, kinda of an 1800’s reverend look, a bible in one hand and a gun in the other. All wore black and all meant business. Interest turned to intrigue as Mather Louth took the stage, in regalia that harkens back to times of hardship, blood and pain. Cape, hat, and a black mesh veil that disguised, made heads pivot. It was on as Chopper Franklin strummed the opening chords of “Red Brick Dust”.
Read the rest and comment HERE
The album opens with Red Brick Dust, a hard-driving tune that doesn’t let up and sets the stage for the entire album, with lead singer Mather Louth’s sultry voice floating above the guitars, fiddle, and banjo. The album takes the listener on a journey through dusty backroads, tall forests with no moonlight, forgotten ghost towns, and lonely murder scenes.
In The Reckoning, slightly reminiscent of early 16 Horsepower, long-time Louth fans will recognize the familiar energy; defiant, sultry, and unrepentant all at once. Louth seems to sing a bit more from the gut on this track, complete with an unforgettable banshee shriek to punctuate the end of every chorus, like a flying flaming spear thrown from one of the Four Horsemen as they descend upon a town whose Judgment Day has come.
The transition to the next track, The Dark Pines, is refreshing respite from the hard-charging The Reckoning, to a jerky and lonely Tom Waits-esque banjo riff. Here, Louth’s storytelling that shines through the haunting lyrics is transcendent and vaudevillian, highlighted by contrast by a long, low, foreboding drone underneath nearly the entire track.
The album closes with Lonesome Whistle, a song that captures the crushing stillness of loneliness deftly, set to a slow honky-tonk waltz, with the soul in Louth’s ethereal voice taking center stage. Against an album of confrontational lyrics and charging rhythms, this track stands out because it breathes and lets the listener breathe and be still and be comfortable with the uneasy and unavoidable stillness of the song.
Overall, this murder-themed album explores all avenues of the subject, from love, to loss, to crime, to redemption, and ultimately, the loneliness of those left behind. Set against a soundtrack of solid country noir, Boot Hill Hymnal is a solid effort from the Heathen Apostles, and with luck, the first of many.
Midnight Calling Magazine
Some time ago, I had the privilege of reviewing Mather Louth’s CD from “Radio Noir” so I was very pleased to see the advent of Heathen Apostles. (Mather is one of my favorite musicians, and I also admire her impeccable fashion sense.) Not only does Heathen Apostles consist of Mather, Chopper Franklin, and Thomas Lorioux, Viktor Phoenix, and Luis Mascaro, all accomplished musicians, but the band also combines two themes very dear to my heart: Goth and the Old West. I have always thought that the Old West teemed with Gothic elements. Here was not the brooding poetry of the drawing room and absinthe fueled dreams , but the open menace of a strange, dangerous, and alien land. The merging of Gothic and Old Western sensibilities only seemed logical.
Several bands have taken this path, and Heathen Apostles are among the foremost. Mather’s wonderful voice and darkly charming demeanor are a perfect fit. The Old West conjures images of vast desolate spaces, grim conflicts, and lonesome death, punctuated by roughshod towns teeming with a disparate mix of sophistication and brutality. It is no accident that Heathen Apostles rises from Los Angeles, that musical Mecca of the Far West, and that their music is steeped in 150 years of history and musical lore.
“Red Brick Dust” starts evocatively with acoustic guitar and low, moaning violin. Electric guitar suddenly punctuates the song like shotgun blasts in the alleyways of old Tombstone. Vocals are pleading, yet dangerous at the same time. Late in the song, violin emerges Paganini-like with a brief, impulsive burst.
Ominous, yet rich violin opens “Dark Was the Night”. Masterful percussion drives the song with a rocky gait, and the mandolin adds a definite western flavor. Vocals are exquisitely layered, sultry and moody.
‘Forget-Me-Not” is a rollicking tune, with sharp, syncopated percussion and edgy banjo, as the violin hovers in the background, only to suddenly rise with the fervor of an assassin. Vocals are strong and confident, yet with an underlying sense of foreboding.
“Never Forever” has a very edgy, evocative intro, with guitars in tandem and violin. They are joined by low-key, yet striking banjo that reminds me of some of Neil Young’s works. Vocals are slow and expressive. The song slowly rises in volume, and vocals drop to an eerie whisper at about 3:06. Then suddenly, some wonderfully cowpunk-ish guitar erupts, and Mather’s superb vocals rise to a crescendo. There is a cool spaghetti western vibe adeptly mixed with ’80′s alternative that makes this is a very compelling song.
‘The Reckoning” ramps things up with Saturday night saloon exuberance and energy. The intro reminded me of the movie “Dead man”, and there is a vague steampunkish element somewhere here amidst the rattling percussion and gypsy flourishes. Brief flashes of fuzz laden guitar add to the demented carnival atmosphere, as Mather’s vocals are both enticing and dangerous.
“The Dark Pines” is one of my favorite songs here. With what I call a ‘Western Cabaret” style, haunting mandolin and menacing violin accompany Mather’s darkly vibrant vocals. Rousing guitar licks and driving percussion propel the song to a very ominous finish.
“It All Came Down” starts with a great little vignette of a tinny Blues song playing as the actions of various firearms are worked and clicked. Then the song launches with syncopated percussion, slow banjo, and low bass that brings a smokey Speakeasy to mind. Guitar is low and menacing, and the organ gives an unsettling edge. This is further heightened by the sardonic, yet sinister male-female vocals that deftly weave around each other.
“Murderer of Souls” is awesome! This is pure Cowboy Gothic for the 21st century. There is some excellent post-punk guitar and sparse, eerie banjo over a gripping electro background. Very edgy violin emerges, then grows stronger as the song progresses. Percussion is as rhythmic and pounding as hooves along a lonely trail. Vocals are smooth, with a nice touch of layering, which heighten the sense of desolation and fatalism that the song evokes.
“Darkness of Dawn” is more Cowboy Cabaret, with Mather’s soulful vocals, wandering violin, and sparse banjo. The percussion canters along, while the guitar adds a darkly expressive touch, especially on the moving, yet dynamic refrain. This song makes me envision a high mountain range on the horizon, with miles of emptiness behind you.
“Lonesome Whistle” is languid and moody, with an ominous carnival-like beginning. Vocals are refined, yet a bit ominous, while the guitar has a definite edge. The backing atmospherics are measured, and inexorably move the song towards a doleful finish.
“Boot Hill Hymnal” is superbly produced, and the arrangements are precise and striking. The band clearly takes their music seriously. The wonderful thing about “Boot Hill Hymnal” is that Heathen Apostles are not bound by the usual boundaries. For example, they are not just a Gothic band that dresses up in Victorian and Old West fashions and makes a few literary references amid the standard doomy droning. They are not a Steampunk band. They are not a Country/Roots band trying to be “authentic”. Heathen Apostles have skillfully created their own innovative sound and vision. There is a delightful variety of musical here, including Gothic, Cabaret, Blues, and Gypsy Jazz, that is deftly bound together by the band’s dark and sometimes brooding sense of a bygone age. This is all filtered through a wholly contemporary level of musical excellency that is both relevant and unique.
This is a very fine work, indeed. I look forward to hearing more from Heathen Apostles.
Read the review HERE
Album: Boot Hill Hymnal
Label: Ratchet Blade Record
It’s not often a band surprises me with something strange and different, but that is exactly what Heathen Apostles did when I heard the first verse of their debut album “Boot Hill Hymnal”. The musicians here are well known to me with vocals by Mather Louth (Radio Noir) and Chopper Franklin (The Cramps) handling the guitar. However the sound that hit my ears was nothing like this groups individual past projects. Some are calling this “Gothic Country” but I feel this is misleading. When one hears the term country, one generally thinks of modern country of the last say 20 years. Heathen Apostles sound is birthed by the music of the far past. Unlike the music of bands like Fields of the Nephilim that blend a southern country or cowboy image into the Gothic sound, Heathen Apostles transports the listeners into another time frame completely. I personally prefer the label of “Dark Roots” music to describe their morbid melodies.
The album begins it’s morbid journey of murder ballad Americana with the toe taping track “Red Brick Dust”. This song is a great welcome to the band’s sound. It’s a familiar sounding structure while introducing the listener to this new sonic world. It’s the most rock or punk groove on the album and it’s chorus hits vocal melodies that are reminiscent of the Radio Noir song “Desert Woman”. Not to contraindicate my statement from earlier. The album really descends into it’s signature style with the second track, “Dark Was the Night”. Incidentally my favorite cut on Boot Hill Hymnal. This morbid tale of the loss of a loved one quickly transports the listener into the desolate landscape of a western town in the late 1800′s. The somber tone of Mather‘s haunting vocals are at flat out beautiful. The music now filling out the sound with fiddles, guitars, and mandolin. It’s easy to close your eyes and find yourself in a dark and haunted town full of lawlessness and death.
“Forget Me Not” is a toe tapping tune that has a touch of Nick Cave‘s Murder Ballads in it. It’s a ghostly tale that really shows off the incredible song writing this group possess. Which is very evident in the cohesive nature of the whole album. This is not a “Let’s give this sound a try.” type of album. Heathen Apostles throws everything into this album to make a truly authentic experience. My mind floats thorough the dark side of the Wild West and the Civil War while listening. Mather is no stranger to creating different time periods. Her work with Radio Noir invokes a 1920′s/30′s atmosphere.
I am not going to go song by song in this review. Suffice it to say every song is wonderfully crafted and they are all worth a good listening too. However, there are a few stand out tracks for me, in addition to “Dark was the Night”. “Murderer Of Souls” is a powerful track that has a huge sound and, well, just plain rocks. I could easily see this as the theme to some dark western or a Southern horror tale. The albums closer, “Lonesome Whistle”, is a simple yet strong melody that leaves the listeners with a bleak feeling and a want of more. Then there is “The Reckoning”. Returning to the toe tapping beat this song has a huge story and sports an apocalyptic feel. Like a steam train out of control and spewing fire from it’s stack. A killer track that also has a great video, the first video from Boot Hill Hymnal.
This debut from Heathen Apostles is a wondrously crafted album that weaves a world all it’s own. It’s powerful, somber, toe tapping, and dark. This is a group distended to leave an indelible mark on the Dark Alternative scene. I am looking forward to the next offering from these macabre masters of melody. Until then I will set Boot Hill Hymnal on a loop. This is a must have album for just about everyone. Do yourself a favor and get the whole album and get lost in this wondrous world known as Heathen Apostles.
Reviewed by: Darkest Jack
Read the review HERE
The burgeoning roots revival that has taken hold in recent years has spawned a great many new bands and singer/songwriters. Out of a significant yet heterogeneous faction of them, there are certainly more than a fair number, existing as most worthwhile things do on sacred ground well beyond the borders of the mainstream, whose experimental songs aren’t exactly what a music purist would deem proper roots material. That is due in part to all of the genre and subgenre crossbreeding, or musical hybridization, as it were, by bands and singer/songwriters endeavoring to combine the roots styles of a bygone era with a number of latter-day outsider styles that have since developed throughout the scene. A reasonably new addition to the scene is the Heathen Apostles, a dark roots and gothic country band out of Los Angeles, whose newly released debut on Ratchet Blade Records, “Boot Hill Hymnal,” is a perfect example of this.
Heathen Apostles began when singer/songstress Mather Louth (Radio Noir) and seasoned punk figure Chopper Franklin (The Cramps, Charley Horse), each with a fondness for the darker side of roots-centered music, came together and conspired to develop just such a sound, though based on their very own creative visions and musical ideas. Musician Thomas Lorioux (Kings of Nuthin’) was soon brought into the fold, and baptized a fellow heathen, so that he could contribute upright bass to the project. Together, these three birthed a signature sound built on a foundation of guitar, banjo, mandolin, keyboards, bass, and vocals. Even so, like many other roots artists, the Heathens are fine with employing fellow artists throughout the scene to provide additional instrumentation, just as they had for the album. And…on evidence presented by listening to the album itself, the auxiliary instrumentation by non-members indeed served to lay down layers of sound ornamentation, and, as it were, overall compositional improvement. And that is how such remarkable songs as Red Brick Dust, Dark Was the Night (no, not the Blind Willie Johnson gospel blues masterpiece), Never Forget, The Reckoning, The Dark Pines, and It All Came Down were forged.
Both organic and mechanical, or rather both acoustic and electric, the Heathens’ sound possesses twang and distortion, eerie string arrangements and measured rhythms, finger-picking and foot-stomping, the keen low-end of the upright bass and…a host of other qualities, all of them complemented by the sultry yet haunting female vocals of the lovely Mather Louth. In its way, it is also a rather cinematic sound they have created, evoking both old-timey and present-day imagery. And the dark, fire n’ brimstone poetry of the lyrical content…lines of meaningful words which altogether prove a compass of sorts, its points pausing briefly here and there at dusty desert wastelands to the West, sprawling gray cities to the East, Heaven to the North, and Hell to the South. To get to these musical destinations, there is much in the way of sin and virtue, the saved and the damned, tragic love affairs and that which transpires before the fall, nature and artificiality, pleasure and suffering, beauty and ugliness, sanity and madness, and so on in the way that contraries pull the human heart and soul this direction and that direction. Ultimately where we end up is a mystery, however, a well-kept secret about by the haggard sisters of fate, who sit crooked in their dank and sparsely furnished cells, weave the fabric of life with gnarled fingers on their ancient looms, and to often snip the strings of providence too high or too low.
“Boot Hill Hymnal” can be inserted into the noteworthy category of today’s roots music, beside such comparable artists as Phantom of the Black Hills, Tears of the Moosechaser, Bad Luck City, Sons of Perdition, The Dead Brothers, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, Those Poor Bastards, Peter Murphy’s Carver Combo, and the like. Recorded at The Devil’s Doghouse in Echo Park, and produced and mixed by Chopper Franklin himself, “Boot Hill Hymnal” consists of ten all-original tracks of the Heathen Apostles’ dark roots, gothic country, murder balladry, and historic Americana. Some of the songs were composed by Franklin, some by Louth, but in most cases by both of them together…and they did an excellent job in that respect.
While the songs on “Boot Hill Hymnal” are inextricably bound to the present, the modern American South West, but reaches back to long gone years in humankind’s history to come across as a vintage soundtrack to the dusty Depression era, with its filthy faces and empty pockets, its tattered clothes and worn-out shoes, and infertile soil as far as the eye could see; to rattlesnake-handling preachers delivering fevered revival tent sermons while members of the congregation are moved by the spirit and flail about as they speak in tongues; to so many sickbed prayers falling from the dray and cracked lips of those stricken with consumption and nearing their ends; to painted harlots lounging in ornate parlors of brothels on the outskirts of town; to gypsy hexes and acts of six-gun vengeance; to shadowy bounty hunters on horseback, stalking their prey through the moonlight hours; to Johnson Family hobo wanderers sitting around a fire and passing around a bottle of rotgut beneath a rickety covered bridge off a dirt road somewhere in the American countryside; to battered old bibles placed religiously on bedside tables, only a few feet away from the ol’ double-barrel shotgun, and white-robed sinners waiting in line for muddy river baptismal immersions in the Deep South; carrion birds circling overhead, biding their time before descending upon a lover murdered in a violent act of passion; and the like.
That is the Heathen Apostles’ “Boot Hill Hymnal.”
James Carlson – The Examiner
Read the review HERE