On the heavy music firmament, the music of King Dude is a peculiar appearance, but always welcomed. Being accepted with music that is so different, yet so haunting, is not regular business but in this case well deserved. The satanic folk man has brought you a new album, titled Songs of Flesh and Blood – In the Key of Light. Combining the foreboding neofolk with blues elements and a general dark atmosphere, King Dude is a unique act these days that is embraced by a scene he doesn’t quite fit in with music wise. We love the music anyways.
TJ Cowgill likes to keep it gloomy and misty, which is precisely what he does on this new record. It’s an interesting take on the dark themes, to put them to this music. That remains fascinating about King Dude to me. It does seem remarkably fitting though, to hear the warm, shuffling tones and creepy lyrics, bringing the sound of Johnny Cash to its logical conclusion.
On this fifth album, the Seattle resident has clearly wrenched all he’s got from his own heart and poured it into song. The variation on this album is the most surprising. The full on hardrock on Black Butterfly sounds like it was made for the big venues. The murmuring of Cowgill’s vocals fits in well with the energetic sound and chanting, giving it a Ghost-y feel. On The Heavy Curtain the mood is that of a plushy café in the fifties, with smoke circling upwards and Nick Cave meeting the Tindersticks in the dark alley behind it.
There’s a lot of feeling in songs like Death Won’t Take Me, which has dark and brooding lyrics. There’s always a light shining though, hope is always somewhere in the music of King Dude. The weary singing always brings you to that border line between light and dark, hope and despair. Then there’s the drugged out haze, titled Rosemary, with a throbbing, grimy bass line and venomous singing. The song feels so uncomplicated, but captures you like that hazy feeling of being under the influence, grasping at meaning and words.
It’s easy to notice how Cowgill uses everything to its maximum potential. The track I Don’t Want To Dream Anymore uses organs to give an almost church like feel, but the words are of a man tormented. That’s all there is to it, but it’s enough to bewilder the listener and cause some introspective moments, while the tones slowly ebb away. The vocal display, which in a way is always at the core of the music of Cowgill, might reach its peak here. One has to praise the shift to a western-like style, including castanets, on Holy Water. This track lets us hear Cowgill actually singing more freely than his usual mumbled warble.
The music is filled with melancholia. It makes you remember, open old wounds, think back of that which you had forgotten. Its openness demands the same from you as the listener, which is a very powerful thing indeed. Musically, it never utilises more than needed, keeping the music simple but more effective on the listener. King Dude has made a gut wrenchingly good album and one that should put him with up for a broader audience.
Scribed by: Guido Segers