Records of the Week With Jon and Ted #9
Each Friday, Editors Ted Nubel and Jon Rosenthal will share their picks for Records of the Week — not necessarily what's out this week, just whatever's on our mind or on our record players.
The Carnival Bizarre
Sometimes I pick a record because of its lasting impact on myself as a well-rounded piece of art… and sometimes I pick a record because I've got a song stuck in my head. Since I first heard "Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)", the introduction and main riff has, strangely often, invaded my consciousness like a lightning bolt: that triple snare flam in the beginning, ringing out like an unholy summoning on a ritual drum, kicks right into one of the best doom riffs (and Cathedral wrote a lot of bangers) ever put to tap. That harmony line that fires up right after? Unbeatable.
As for the rest of the album… well, it's pretty cool too, I guess! After Forest of Equilibrium, Cathedral leaned more and more into doom-rock territory, merging their control of bizarre (heh) melody and riff-crafting with massive swagger. This did have unfortunate side effects, like basically all Cathedral music videos, and I know plenty of first-album-only Cathedral holdouts, but The Carnival Bizarre is a product of a band fully in control of their weirdness: tracks like "Palace of Fallen Majesty" proved they hadn't lost touch with their longer-form strangeness, and "Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)" set perhaps the bar for witch-hunt-themed riffing -- at the very least, it hasn't been topped since.
It's hard to believe Crooked Necks has been gone for… seven years, now? Something perspective altering like that. This Texas/Virginia duo's unique approach to the "blackgaze" style took what were perceived as its tenets and simply reversed them, placing more importance on the music's shoegaze and post-punk elements as their sound's bulk and adding black metal as an emphasizing, highlighting characteristic. The result is a sun-bleached, nostalgic EP, the band's last, and a strong note to go out on. Is it a good black metal release? It's hard to say, as Faded Fluorescence is so far from the black metal multi-instrumentalist Shane Church's pedigree (Toil et al), but vocalist and drummer Andy Krupinski's desperate howls tie Crooked Necks to their black metal roots. Most will listen to this and say "Jon, this is just shoegaze," which is mostly true, don't get me wrong, but even something as simple as changing a vocal style can make something new and interesting. I miss Crooked Necks and wish more bands would attempt more subtle genre fusion like they did.