Seattle's Book of the Black Earth released mediocre heavy-metal albums:
I, II, III (2004),
The Feast (2006),
Horoskopus (2008) and The Cold Testament (2011).
Their frontman T.J Cowgill, however, emerged as an unusual singer-songwriter
under the moniker King Dude, pioneering a
gloomy fusion of alt-country and apocalyptic folk
(Death In June,
Tonight's Special Death Love (2010), with the evocative
River Of Gold,
and especially Love (2011),
with the lilting country-rock lullaby Lucifer Light of the World and
the trotting In The Eyes Of The Lord somewhere between a pirate
singalong and George Harrison's My Sweet Lord.
Burning Daylight (Dais, 2012) further increased the dose of gloom and
Holy Land, propelled by voodoo tribal drumming, crosses
Suicide-ian vocals and
Duane Eddy-ian twang.
The locomotive blues Jesus In The Courtyard borrows the most sorrowful
accents of Tom Waits' gravely voice.
This time the references multiply:
Johnny Cash, etc.
If the first two albums were very personal, this one often sounds like a
sweeping tribute to the 1950s but done by a horror-movie specialist,
the dark overtones sinking the
grand ballad You Can Break My Heart as well as the
raw rockabilly stomp I Know You're Mine, all the way to the
twisted gospel hymn Lord I'm Coming Home.
Fear (Not Just Religious Music, 2014) contains
the Tom Waits-ian
singalong Devil Eyes, but mostly it sounds like a collection of
unfinished takes on his favorite genres
(the childish doom-metal of Fear is All You Know,
the power-pop of Cloven Hoofs, etc).
Songs Of Flesh & Blood (Not Just Religious Music, 2015) is the album
of a diligent student of
Stan Ridgway and Nick Cave, whether in the
hard-rocking Black Butterfly
or in the spaghetti-western spoof Holy Water.
Sex (Van, 2016) is general more rocking and boasts the usual variety
of style: the hard-rock of
Holy Christos, with flaming guitars and driving drums;
the demonic werewolf-ish blues of I Wanna Die at 69;
the krautrock instrumental Conflict & Climax;
the anemic limping Waits-ian shuffle The Leather One;
the Doors-ian melody of Who Taught You How To Love;
and especially the anthemic punk-rock of Swedish Boys.
But then Music To Make War To (Van, 2018) was another disappointment:
Joy Division-ian goth-rock Velvet Rope
and the slow, noisy and theatrical Twin Brother of Jesus
are not enough to redeem all the half-baked songs.
The power-pop of Dead Before The Chorus,
the synth-pop of In the Garden,
the punk-rock of The Castle,
and the orchestral pop of Let it Burn
sound amateurish. Maybe he's stretching himselt too thin across too many genres.
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