Another month, another rocking new band signed to Ripple Music. This time it’s the turn of Connecticut five piece Bone Church with their second album Acid Communion, following on from their 2017 self-released, self-titled debut. I’m going to dispense with my usual practice and tell you now that Acid Communion is good. REALLY good. You should go and check it out immediately; you’ll find it much more rewarding than my prose.
If you’re one of those suspicious types and insist on a few more details before doing so, I shall however oblige. Bone Church lay down some heavy blues rock, like Led Zep but with a liberal seasoning of doom and stoner rock thrown in. The production on Acid Communion is tasty too; pitched in that sweet spot which captures the valve-driven, analogue tones of the early 70s, but with the extra grit and heft of modern heavy rock. Even if the tunes weren’t anything special, the record would make for a pleasant enough listen purely off the back of that.
Good as the production is, the first thing that will strike you on listening to Bone Church is that vocalist Jack Rune (I’ve no idea if that’s his real name; I certainly hope it is) has a serious set of pipes. With a voice that’s part Robert Plant, part Jon Garcia, and all RAWK he really comes across as the focal point of the band. He’s a good enough that, if by some improbable turn of events he ended up fronting The Wurzels, he’d make them sound like hard rock royalty.
Strangely, the album kicks off with the weakest track Heavy Heaven. It’s by no means a bad song, providing five minutes of comparatively breezy 70s hard rock, but it doesn’t hit the heights of the rest of the album. Witch In The Cellar steps things up, offering a real contrast between verses based on a nagging, propulsive riff and a chorus that has a more relaxed, stoner feel to it. Throw in a few tempo changes, quiet sections, and a dollop of guitar histrionics and you’re onto a winner.
That said, for me Bone Church really hit their stride with the third track Bone Church Blues and keep the pace up until the end. It’s got everything you could possibly want from a band in this genre: old-school blues replete with terrible grammar and an improbable tale of woe run through a filter of doomy-stoner rock. As the lyrics aptly state: ‘I’ve got the blues so dark they’re black’. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that while the likes of Muddy Waters would sometimes ponder a pact with the devil, I don’t think they ever got so far as forming a magic circle and making blood offerings as Bone Church do here. I particularly enjoyed the outro where Bone Church run through the standard blues shuffle section, but with a hefty extra dose of heavy. Rather like Lonely Kamel’s Grim Reefer if you’re familiar with it, and with similarly awesome results.
If [Iron Temple] doesn’t get you throwing the horns and looking for something that will serve as an imaginary monitor to put your foot on, then I’m afraid I have bad news: there’s something deeply, irreparably wrong with you…
Next up is Iron Temple, which makes the impressive step of possibly being even better. As with the rest of the album, Bone Church take you through a series of subtle changes that never dial back on the rock but really offer a range of mood shifts across the track. It has a truly blistering ending, climaxing in a guitar work-out to end all guitar work-outs. If it doesn’t get you throwing the horns and looking for something that will serve as an imaginary monitor to put your foot on, then I’m afraid I have bad news: there’s something deeply, irreparably wrong with you.
If They Float not only delivers more righteous rock, it’s a good example of some quality song-writing. Jack Rune’s vocals are not only intelligible (itself pretty unusual), they showcase how Bone Church have a real knack for story-telling with their lyrics. The prospect of another song about witchcraft probably isn’t going to set your pulse racing, but the evocative lyrics about fear and loathing in 17th century rural America are really a cut above the standard lazy tropes that you come across so often. It really adds another dimension to what’s probably the most straight-forward track on the album.
All that’s left then is for Bone Church to round things off in fine style, and they duly oblige with the nine-minute title track. Slowing the pace and upping the heaviness, it’s a distillation of all the quality stuff that’s come before and makes for an excellent way to finish an excellent album.
I’ve been fortunate enough this year to review a number of really good albums, but I think Acid Communion tops them all. For me it hits the perfect balance of vintage and modern heaviness, delivered with impeccable musicianship and the sort of rock ’n’ roll swagger you don’t come across very often. As I think I mentioned earlier, you should go and check it out immediately.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc