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Album review: Death Valley Girls - Darkness Rains

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The Death Valley, synonymous with death and an unbearable, baron heat, is an aptly appropriate name for a band delving into the notion of the occult, life and death. Death Valley Girls exist within their own baron landscape, refusing to become typecast as punk, psych or anything in between.

Image credit: Michael Haight

Heralded by punk godfather himself, Iggy Pop, Death Valley Girls finally unleash their raucous third studio album, Darkness Rains, upon the world, possessing the raw perspiration of The Stooges, and the black magic-tinged riffs of Black Sabbath.

Kicking off with the raucous ‘More Dead’, it's rolling drum beats recruit it’s listeners into a dystopian punk rock experience, easing them into the more intense aspects of the album. Bloomberg's repeated refrain of “You’re more dead than alive” sets the tone of the album, which explores mystic themes of death, magic and necromancy. This is underscored by the fuzzy intense sound created by the wah pedal, which creates an ethereal aloofness. 

‘Disaster Is What We’re After’, is where the album really finds it feet. Whereas the opening tracks created a riot, this track is where the doors are really kicked down. As the song which notoriously accompanies the music video of Iggy Pop recreating the Andy Warhol burger sketch, it reflects the clearest punk spirit of The Stooges. Bloomberg’s vibrato vocals create an impending state of hedonism, flitting between the unhinged and discordant horn in the chorus. It feels like the love child of Le Tigre and The Rolling Stones. 

What makes Death Valley Girls so compelling, is their intermingling of different timelines and genres of rock history without making it too chaotic. ‘Unzip your forehead’ is as mind-bending as the title appears, an apocalyptic tale in which Bloomberg exclaims, “We just wanna eat your brains”. 70’s classic rock departs into 80’s psychedelica, just when you feel like you’ve captured their full essence.

‘Wear Black’ is a highlight of the album, departing into menacing guitars which oscillate with the vibrato vocals, exploring the loud-quiet technique characterised by bands such as Pixies, with an added dash of touching hillbilly rock. As guitarist Larry Schemel notes “Songs come from beyond and other worlds, you just have to tune into the right radio wave signal to dial them in. Our signal happens to be in a 1970 Dodge Charger Spaceship,”

‘Abre Camino’ is a departure from the liberating raw punk that categorised the earlier part of the album into a slower tempo, accompanied by menacing guitars and haunting vocals. If the former part of the album was kicking down the doors, the latter part is exploring what’s behind them. ‘Born Again and Again’ picks up the tempo, but continues with the moody and melancholy tones of Abre Camino, exploring themes of reincarnation, something which Death Valley Girls constantly do in the album.

The last 3 tracks continue the ambiguity of genre, continuing to delve into occultist themes. ‘Street Justice’ is blues-tinged punk rock, ‘Occupation Ghost Writer’ is a three minute mellow track led by a funky bassline and characteristic shrill vocals. ‘TV In Jail On Mars’, brings dreamlike vocals to the background of a comforting bassline, until irregular guitars join in and chimes begin to disrupt your sense of stability.

If anything, Darkness Rains could be assessed to be a little too derivative, playing on all the conventions of rock. However, sometimes being meta is completely acceptable. They manage to incorporate all the best aspects of rock history in order to create a compelling and enjoyable release, which becomes more rewarding each time you listen. It combines occult spirit with dystopian nihilism, and though on the surface gloomy and melancholy, it possesses an impactful take on a condensed history of rock and roll.

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