Review: King Bastard ‘It Came From The Void’

The great thing about music is that its muse and theme can come from pretty much anything and take the listener on journeys to just about anywhere. New York’s King Bastard sure might not be the first band to take their muse from the vast beyond that is space, but their debut album It Came From The Void sets its sights on not being constrained by any earthly limits on their collision of psychedelic, experimental jams, and towering doom.

King Bastard 'It Came From The Void'

Formed just over three years ago in a chance meeting at Stony Brook University, Izzy Guido (synth), Arthur Erb (bass), and Mike Verni (guitar) came together to share their ambitions to create expansive and challenging music that seek to push the boundaries of music as an art form. These lofty ambitions were not shackled by any notions of being constrained by the delicate intricacies, and it wasn’t until the robust drumming skills of Matt Ryan arrived before they could really get their teeth into creating music that could both smash you over the head, whilst simultaneously caress and stimulate the palette.

Recorded live in just one weekend, It Came From The Void is a reflection of the graft they have put into creating the six tracks that make up the album and, aided by a bit of family encouragement (Mike’s uncle is Darren Verni of Unearthly Trance), they captured their magic at Thousand Caves studio with Colin Marston (Gorguts, Krallice), utilising a variety of additional instruments to take the track beyond mere smoke fuelled jams.

Music being subjective means that you can attach your own interpretation and taking an isolated sample from the film Aliens that adds atmosphere to the end of the fourth track, Bury The Survivors/Ashes To Ashes, means (to me at least) the album could almost be a stoner soundtrack to James Cameron’s sequel. In actual fact, the third track Psychosis (In A Vacuum) tells the tale of the crash suffered by Russian astronaut Vladimir Komarov, but in terms of the theme of the album, there is definitely a story crafted beyond the individual moments.

The mostly instrumental space rock odyssey begins quietly with the searching From Hell To Horizon, awash with samples and synths, the backward recording builds like a skipping glitch in The Matrix, and akin to the tension during the launch sequence of a space bound rocket, before giving way to lush stoner tones driven by a pulsing, funky bass. As the song breaks out it channels the retro, psychedelic jam vibes that are filled with warmth and mellow interplay between the band members. It’s not quite Thus Spake Zarathustra, it might not even be Kal-El’s Dark Majesty, but it is grandiose and showcases exactly why King Bastard have caught the eye of several notable websites

This moves seamlessly into the fuzzed-out playful back and forth of Kepler-452b (a super-Earth 1,402 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus). Deep low-end groove and long ringing notes oscillate back and forth with the deft exploratory lead work. Some of the stoner reference points can always be traced back to the likes of Saint Vitus and Kyuss, or even back to the groundwork laid down by Sabbath on the unparalleled Vol 4, heavy and melodic, focused and free, often within moments of each other.

It Came From The Void is a solid debut by a band clearly filled with ideas and ambitions…

The aforementioned and epic length Psychosis derails this hopeful atmosphere. With a grinding mood switch that channels the pummelling, pounding rhythm section of High On Fire, the savage hardcore is augmented by a blackened shrieking vocal that cranks the tension, like the transition from the serene and exploratory feel of the first tracks, into a sudden explosion of violence that, sticking with my film metaphor, recalls the moments where the marines suddenly find themselves in deep shit and way overmatched. This track, whilst almost a tale of two halves, gives an unsettling edge that sits slightly uncomfortably when viewed in context, so alien and ugly compared to what has surrounded it.

Bury The Survivors… brings back the monolith stoner riffage but gone is the peaceful air of calm that permeated the first two tracks, propelled with a military like snare tattoo that contrasts the lush clean notes and wah pedal wringing every drop of passion in the playing. The track finishes with the sample of Ripley addressing Burke over the betrayal of the colonists he sent to die and continues the album’s downward spiral that furthers the narrative of the once inspirational journey descending into a nightmare.

The harder edged Black Hole Viscera, the title alone providing no comfort, the album barrels toward the end drenched in feedback leaving the listener with an unsettling feeling that belies King Bastard’s multifaceted approach that has seen them employ percussion, saxophone, violin, and viola to fill out the sound beyond expectation and add textures and flavours that will hopefully mean they stand out from the pack.

Rounding out with the epic Succumb To The Void, a ten-minute jazz like swirling instrumental which builds and flows with the crushing weight of being sucked into a black hole as Ryan batters his kit under noodling guitar work. Split into two halves, once the ship (and the music) has been sucked into the metaphorical void, lone guitar, and a haunting sample talking about the separation of conscious and the body leaves this captivating journey with a conclusion that makes you noticeably aware of the silence that follows.

It Came From The Void is a solid debut by a band clearly filled with ideas and ambitions, it was slightly unfair to make a throwaway comparison to Dark Majesty, an album that was highly regarded from a band who have spent a long time perfecting their craft. King Bastard have a ton of potential here and whilst not all their ideas might have flowed as seamlessly or made complete sense, this is definitively filled with more highs than lows and they are most definitely ones to keep your eyes and ears on.

Label: Independent
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Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden