Saint Karloff, a trio from Oslo, have been very busy of late. Their excellent debut album All Heed The Black God was released on Twin Earth Records in July of last year, followed by a split release with Devil’s Witches (review) this September. Clearly not ones to rest on their laurels, they’re back with their second full length, Interstellar Voodoo, only a month later. Now, the press release describes Saint Karloff as ‘occult rockers’ and, if that isn’t enough of a clue for you, they state their influences as 70s heavy blues along the lines of Black Sabbath and early Pentagram. Yes, prepare yourself for some doomy blues rock, vintage style.
In a marked departure from Saint Karloff’s earlier releases, Interstellar Voodoo consists of a single forty-odd minute track. In my experience, really long songs tend to fall into one of two categories: the first focus on exploring a few repetitive motifs and take you on an immersive journey into the resulting soundscapes; the second travel about so much that they’re effectively a bunch of separate songs fused together (Negative Reaction’s Moon Song springs to mind as a good example of the latter. It’s a brilliant track/album, but if you strategically inserted a few brief silences you’d have a good half dozen standalone songs). At the risk of some serious fence-sitting, I’d say that Interstellar Voodoo falls somewhere between the two. It was definitely conceived as a single piece as there are several riffs/melodies that are repeated at points throughout, but by the same token, it does breakdown into discrete sections of a few minutes’ duration.
I’ve procrastinated in writing this review because describing one long piece of music is much harder than I anticipated. So, first things first. Given the provenance, Saint Karloff sound much as you might expect: a gnarly, valve-driven guitar tone; thumping bass; and echoey vocals (when they crop up) lurking towards the back of the mix. You know, the sort of analogue flavoured goodness that’s always pleasant to listen to.
the band locks into a shuffle rhythm that’s about as early 70s as the laws of physics allow and I defy anyone to not at least nod along…
Interstellar Voodoo kicks off with a slow doomy intro before launching into what I’ve come to think of as the main bit of the song about three minutes in. I really like this section – the band locks into a shuffle rhythm that’s about as early 70s as the laws of physics allow and I defy anyone to not at least nod along (or tap a toe if you happen to be in polite company) as they listen. This bit comes up twice more, with the final run through played with more aggression and effectively bringing matters to a close. Looking over my notes, these are liberally interspersed with quiet instrumental interludes that gradually build in intensity, the odd guitar freak-out, and some sections that I’ve just tagged as ‘cool doom riffs’ that aren’t repeated. There are a few more vocal sections too, which provides a good sense of balance and avoids the album coming across as an extended instrumental noodle.
Taken as a whole, Interstellar Voodoo provides an enjoyable 40-minute stroll through a warm fuzzy soundscape. I did find that my attention wandered at points (although, given the nature of the track I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing) and, if I was feeling particularly critical, the final 5 minute gradual fade could happily have been left out or significantly shortened. Still, if you’re in the mood to bask in some 70s rock goodness it’s definitely worth checking out.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc