Sunday, March 7, 2010


A sort of "odds n' sods" collection to put the final nail in the coffin of Reverend Bizarre's crushing discography, and an effort only slightly less satisfying than any of their exemplary studio output. This was an amazing band, hands down and without argument, and if you think otherwise then you're just flat out wrong. Sorry-that's the truth of it. Doom metal was a passing flirtation for me and today i hold only a handful of bands who practice the genre in high regard-Electric Wizard (though they're on a slow, steady decline), Disembowelment (broken up long ago), Worship (worthless since the singer's suicide years ago) and of course the mighty Khanate (also inactive.) Others have done good work, your Bunkurs and your Mosses and all those other English hill-dwellers who strap on an axe and quake the earth, but as a whole the genre is stagnant. The statements have been made, the envelopes have all been pushed and much like death metal by the late '90's there's just nowhere left for the music to go. Reverend Bizarre recognized that and bowed out after a mere three studio albums, alongside a wealth of b-sides, split contributions and various recorded covers and ephemera.
So what made Reverend Bizarre so great? It was a simple recognition of what made the genre what it was: the almighty RIFF. Any idiot can plug into a full stack and shred away on an open "D" chord for 60 minutes but it takes a hell of a lot more to use that length to rock from start to finish. No one would ever accuse RB of being economists; most of the albums are between 80-14o minutes in length and turned in several 20+ minute songs but there was never a single boring moment on any of those records. Their swansong, the aptly titled "III: So Long Suckers" (boldly bearing the statement "DOOM METAL IS DEAD") is easily one of the finest doom metal records ever unleashed and across its epic span it sucks you in and gets your head banging and your fists in the air for its entire duration. More than any other modern doom band, RB GOT what Black Sabbath was doing. They tuned in to the same frequency that Iommi dialed into in the late '60's and called forth a torrent of bludgeoning, simplistic headcrushers that simply showed no mercy and rocked without shame, with a sheer hedonism and lust. And it wasn't brainless, like so much metal revisionism-behind all those bruising electric belches and bone-cracking tom hits were extremely dark, atavistic lyrics that dealt intelligently with the genre's key themes: suicide, despair, apocalypse and the folly of religion. Albert Witchfinder's willingness to bare his psyche on record made RB's matted musical palette all the more endearing.
"Death is Glory...Now" is made up of both originals and covers, with one disc devoted to each (more or less.) The original material is culled mostly from RB's extremely fertile 2003-2008 period, so it all sounds of one, giving Disc One an excellent album-esque flow to it. From the tongue in cheek whiplash inducing rocker "Blood on Satan's Claw" to the tortured, agonized 25 minute tour of Albert's divorce woes on "Demons Annoying Me" the Reverend display an awesome command of mood, pace and blunt force, never letting up on the plodding intensity across the entire runtime. Albert's vocals throughout are particularly snarling and crazed; while he's always been an excellent singer these songs seem to have wrenched a a large chunk of himself out of him (the incredibly dense liner notes confirm that some of this material was incredibly mentally exhausting to perform live.) Physically just playing these beasts must have been grueling-adding emotional breakdown to the equation is a recipe for coming dysfunction, if not great art.
With the exception of the partially improvised "From the Void II" (featuring some astoundingly awesome classic heavy metal riffing) Disc Two is made up entirely of covers, some obvious and straightforward (Saint Vitus's "Dark World", Pentagram's "Broken Vows", Judas Priest's "Deceiver"), some more obtuse (Mr. Velcro Fastener's "Bend", Simo Salminen's "Rotestilaulu"). Reverend Bizarre puts their stamp on all of them, especially the Priest cover (which they of course slow waaaaay down) and the album's final track, a monolithic, crawling run-through of Beherit's black metal Satan-worshiping anthem "The Gate of Nanna", ending in a whirlwind of blackened crust covered nihilistic guitar noise waste, probably the most truly apocalyptic sound that the Reverend ever conjured up. A fine way to end a career-spanning collection for a band so enamoured with the end times, a band that operated almost solely on the strength of the three members' inability to get along with one another. All of that interpersonal distress bled into the music, leaving behind a near flawless discography of ultra-tormented disgust with modernity. We should all be so jaded.

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