Second albums always are difficult beasts for any band, but even more so when they have undergone a seismic shift (sic) in the personnel department in the period between.
Baleful Creed’s self-titled debut album, released back in 2013, was a fairly Richter registering event in its own right, with a collection of tunes more than capable of levelling a middle-sized Far Eastern dictatorship merely by turning the volume knob on the band’s Marshall stacks up a fraction of a notch: it was a heavy-as-fuck slice of old school doom-meets-stoner groove that had some fairly immense moments – such as the titanic (sic, again) ‘Autumn Leaves’… oh, that is one beauteous song…
In the intervening four years, the band have had their fair share of personal and collective struggles, ultimately resulting in the departure of their entire original rhythm section. But, slowly they rebuilt: like their music, Baleful Creed like to be considered and not rush headlong into things. Now, the reconstruction process is complete and they are ready to kick up dust with an album that was conceived out of the ashes of the old line-up but very much born in the confident new one.
And the first thing that strikes you about this second child is that it not only represents a change in personnel, but also in attitude: the one failing of ‘Baleful Creed’ was that it was very much rooted in one aspect of the genre. It wore its influences very much on its sleeve. It was also a dark and claustrophobic album. ‘Seismic Shifter’ is just that: a massive shift. While staying true to the band’s doom/stoner roots, there is also a much lighter touch to this album, which I shall now elaborate on…
The album heaves into sight with the massive lead single, ‘Devil’s Side’. The expected sound effects slowly give way to a dual guitar part which conflicts yet complements itself: one stabbing, the other fuzzed out, they set the tone for the abrasive opening snare beat and Fin’s acidic vocal kick off – you can almost see the heckles flying into the microphone as he spits out the words. The song immediately reflects the tone of the entire album, with brilliantly executed changes in mood and tempo throughout: just as you think it’s going to take you down a dark alley and give you the beating of your life, it grabs you by the hand and shows you the sunshine on the other side of your nightmare.
‘Momento Mori’ is a throwback to old school Baleful Creed, with Fin at his most spiritual: “live life as a sinner, seek salvation elsewhere” he prays, as Davy Greer’s thick bass rumbles with the muddiness of Belfast’s River Lagan at low tide and David Jeffers’ snare snaps with the hunger of an alligator with a wounded cow hanging just tantalisingly out of reach. Greer steps up to the mic for the opening part of the magnificent ‘Levy’, adding a sardonic bluesiness which beautifully counterparts Fin’s venom – and, by fuck, they even bring in a harp, taking this song right back into the swamps yet keeping a lightness of touch which few bands working in this genre manage to manipulate effectively.
‘God’s Fear’ grunts and growls with a dark fury: another deeply spiritual lyric from Finlay – he challenges rather than confronts, or denies, accepted belief systems – tops off a suitably dense and moribund musical theme, which moves along with a well-paced fluidity. ‘Grind’ is one of the weakest songs of the album: it’s a fairly standard stoner blues workout, with a dark bass line and highlighted by a seering solo, but also is one of the album’s faster songs, rattling along at a decent headbanging pace… But, then, we did need a bit of a break, ‘cos the second half of the album is definitely that oft overused phrase “all killer no filler”…
‘Faux Celebrity’ is a brutal assault on modern society that sees the people at whom it is directed held up as misjudged role models: Fin snarls his condemnatory lyrics, while the song has a sardonic and sarcastic lightness to it, exorcised through the two searing solos which bookend the bridge section, while the bass peeks through with a well-judged subtlety. ‘Walking Wounded’ is simply epic in its feel: dense, with a throb that just grabs you by the balls, it’s possibly the slowest, sludgiest song that Baleful Creed have produced, but in no way veers anywhere near “ballad” territory, especially when Dave kicks the second half up a gear and Fin opens up his throat with a Rod Stewart-singing-Sabbath roar. And the climax just sends shudders down your spine.
Bassist Davy Greer (who also fronts Beyond The Beneath) steps up to the mic again for the rip roaring ‘Lose Religion’, which immediately evokes the spirit of Lemmy as it punches harder than Mike Tyson and races along faster than Usain Bolt. The mood changes slightly with a return to Fin’s tortured mind, as he pleads to be ‘Forgiven’: of course you are dude. It’s a deeply personal plea, which is delivered with passion and a dense fury which permeates every groove of the song and every fibre of your rock’n’roll soul. Then comes closer ‘Wolf Pack’ – and, holy fuck and all the lords of chaos, is that a Hammond organ I hear in the background? Jeezus H Christ and all the false apostles, if you’re gonna fuck with people’s expectations, this is one way to do it: a dense blues which has elements of Sabbath’s ‘Children Of The Grave’ and also Pantera’s ‘Five Minutes Alone before exploding with the fury of Jerry Garcia on a speed rush, it’s the perfect end to an album that twists and turns and, in places, defies logic.
Yes, second albums can be difficult affairs. And, in places, ‘Seismic Shifter’ is a very difficult album: but, that’s because it challenges the listener to actually do that – listen to the damn thing. There is a lot going on in it, musically and, especially, lyrically. It possesses a rawness of emotion, exposes open wounds that few are willing to leave like that… it’s cathartic and enervating.
Review written by Mark Ashby © Über Rock.
Reproduced with permission of Über Rock http://www.uberrock.co.uk
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