What's up with Old Time Relijun? Their latest album isn't particularly grating, and one could say almost accessible to the general public. Frontman Arrington de Dionyso is well known for his individual singing style--an almost Yoko Ono-esque screech with no seeming sense of melody, or even that he's in the same song as the rest of the band. But he seems to have matured, or rather mellowed, on
Even so, these ten songs still cover much similar territory to their previous albums. "Vampire Victim"
(download) continues the bloodsucking saga as presented in such previous tunes as "Vampire Sushi"
Witchcraft Rebellion. Arrington is understandably pretty upset by the whole experience. His growling repetition of "the nape of the neck, the nape of the neck" isn't likely to become the catchphrase of the year, but it's as close as anything so niche-driven could.
Lost Light begins with the album's most mainstream tune, "The Door I Came Through Has Been Closed." With only a few changes, it could see some actual airplay. The highlight of the album, though, has to be the eight-minute opus "Cold Water" (which, by the way, was particularly effective during the period I was reading Rick Hautala's
Cold River), with its (Doors guitarist) Robby Kriegeresque guitar line and wailing cries of "cold water!" Even bassist Aaron Hartman and drummer Rives Elliott get in on the act by returning Arrington's line with their own "going down, cold water."
The real surprise came with
Lost Light's version of "This Kettle Contains the Heart," which originally appeared on the
Invisible Shield compilation as simply "Kettle," and which I inevitably would skip due to its jarring presentation. The band has mellowed it down musically, if not vocally, and it's a much more pleasant listen here. What follows after is a fascinating instrumental called "Music of the Spheres"--interesting in itself purely in the absence of De Dionysio's voice, but somehow less compelling for the same reason. It surprises me to write this, but it is his strange vocal stylings that are a major draw for me to this band.
But I am presented with surprise after surprise on this album. A love song? On an Old Time Relijun album? Well, that's what "Tigers in the Temple"
(download) is -- or at least it starts out that way. "Pardes Rimmonim" begins with a groove that is almost meditational. Somehow the vocals don't really break that feeling, despite their volume. He sounds kind of far away, with the instruments staying in the foreground, so it doesn't harm the effect of the song. It reminds me in some ways of a song (I can't remember the title, and the album is out of print) by a North Carolina band called Fetchin Bones. (Maybe "Wine"?)
In "Cold Water, Deep Underwater"--another instrumental that has no discernible connection to its similarly titled neighbor--new drummer Rives Elliott shows some of the innovation in recording that makes his predecessor,
Microphone Phil Elvrum, so compelling as a percussionist and producer.
"The Rising Water, the Blinding Light" shows some of the poetic lyrics that also have some similarity to the Doors; "the fire takes a human bride" is one line that stands out. It starts with just recitation/singing and clanging guitar but slowly builds into a full band number without ever losing its momentum. "War is Over" isn't a great song, but is a high energy closer that wraps up all that has come before. It also blends nicely into "The Door I Came Through Has Been Closed" so a repeat listen isn't jarring.
I have to admit that I was immediately less interested in Old Time Relijun once I read that Phil was leaving, but
Lost Light has shown me the way. With its mix of interesting lyric and music, and the development that has taken place over the years, Old Time Relijun has become a band to really take notice of.
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