When a band gets lauded by a staple of the mainstream meeja such as the Guardian or BBC Radio 2 and rock press such as Kerrang! it can be a double edged sword. No doubt the exposure is appreciated but it throws up questions about whether it is merely posturing to some latest trend or desperately trying to appear cool by citing more underground bands alongside articles gushing over Ryan Adam ‘mansplaining’ Taylor Swift’s latest album. Salt? Why yes, I’ll have a pinch of that please my good man.
That said, Preston, England’s Evil Blizzard arrive on the back of the aforementioned much press talk and the follow up to their 2014 debut, The Dangers Of Evil Blizzard, sparked a hotly contested bidding war between labels desperate to capitalise on the oft kilter weirdness that intrigued audiences around the country with their unconventional set up. Without even striking a note Evil Blizzard are a conundrum; Four bass players, a singing drummer and not a guitar in sight. They band take to the stage in an array of freakish latex masks and spew a pulsing bend of krautrock, Hawkwind, psychedelia, Joy Division post punk and a smattering of sludged up Black Sabbath. Confused? It’ll make more sense if I take a tab of Acid to go with that salt please…
Whatever the set up, whatever the performance art that accompanies it, the question boils down to ‘Are Evil Blizzard any good?’. For those familiar with their debut you probably have your answer, only this time they are beefed up thanks to Embrace’s Richard McNamara manning the production helm to unleash a honed, more mature take on the chaotic, evil noise.
Opening with Are You Evil the band set out their calling card for Everybody Come To Church as sinister beginnings morph into a stomping groove, rich with samples, synths and psychedelic flourishes. Mark Whiteside’s whispering vocals are at times plain disturbing as the hooks sink into you like someone trying to knit with jellyfish. The track explodes into a towering chorus that intones the title question like the cast of the Rocky Horror Show had gone out drinking with Ian Curtis, but instead of love tearing them apart, they ended up dancing on the tables in a burlesque club.
Stupid People continues this heady rock ‘n’ roll vibe with the echoey vocals and grinding rhythm. Despite the lack of lead guitars, the sound is varied and staggered, giving a multi-layered effect that is rich and danceable, while the drums and keyboards provide variety to keep the music pushing forward.
Bow Down And Prey is a perfect example of the atmosphere that Evil Blizzard carve out, up tempo and deceptively catchy, yet the music is unsettling and creepy with the same sort of carnival bizarre feel that Marilyn Manson conjured up on the Smells Like Children remix album, while Sacrifice takes this even further as it givers way to a huge heavy passage that forms a wall of sound behind Whiteside’s rasping voice.
However all that glitters is not always gold. Over the course of the nine tracks there is the odd occasion where Evil Blizzard fail to maintain their momentum. Towards the back end of the album as Balloon starts with a sledgehammer like battering but somehow feels like it drifts off slightly; Laughing Gas is saved from becoming more of the same by the lyrics and the chorus and final album closer Watching clocks in at a positively Doom length piece of music I could take or leave depending on my mood.
That being said this is an album that requires multiple listens to absorb as the dense layers of music throw up different nuances of light and shade. The first time I listened to this album, I thought ‘What the actual fuck?’ and turned it off 3 tracks in because I wasn’t in a receptive mood that day. The second time I appreciated what they were doing and the subsequent times I have found it lodged in my head long after the album had finished.
Everybody Come To Church is a macabre and deliciously unhinged slice of weird. The music builds around vocal mantras that are designed to suck you in and shares qualities with the likes of Gnod, where the performance of the music becomes an immersive experience for band and listener – the more you are willing to surrender yourself then the more you are going to get out of it.
Ultimately they might be too weird for some, but for others they may be exactly kitsch enough to become the soundtrack to the best Halloween party going. If you want to step out of your comfort zone and embrace a band with no limitations on their unique vision, then check out Everyone Come To Church.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden