Rock n’ roll has always served as a means to elevate the fringe of society, though it’s accentuated the plights of the outcasts and misfits in different ways throughout the years. Today we see it manifest in LA’s Death Valley Girls, who are more like a travelling caravan than a band in the traditional sense. At their core, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel channel Death Valley Girls’ modern spin on Fun House’s sonic exorcisms, early ZZ Top’s desert-blasted riffage, and Sabbath’s occult menace. Their relentless touring schedule means that the remainder of the group is rounded out by whichever like-minded compatriots can get in the van. Darkness Rains is their third LP and sees Bonnie and Larry joined by bassist Alana Amram, drummer Laura Harris, and a rotating cast of guests like Shannon Lay, The Kid (Laura Kelsey), and members of The Make Up, The Shivas, and Moaning who help elevate the band from their rogue beginnings to a communal ritualistic musical force.
Their second album Glow In The Dark was based on the concept that many of us are trying to become more enlightened, and you can tell by the way they ‘glow in the dark.’ Darkness Rains goes a step further, attempting to shift the consciousness of those that have not yet considered how we are all connected and how that relates to the way we view life beyond death. Those that ‘glow’ can use the songs on Darkness Rains as new chants—or they can be used for pure entertainment.
Opening with ‘More Dead’, a beat driven track that contains all the elements we love from that distinct vocal warble to fuzzy guitars we move into ‘(One Less Thing) Before I Die’ which contains this theme but places the drums further back into the mix and channels a proto-punk sound. Lead track ‘Disaster (Is What We’re After) with its already infamous video featuring Iggy Pop re-creating an Andy Warhol sketch is loaded with swagger and channels more than a hint of The Rolling Stones in places. ‘Unzip Your Forehead’ continue much in this vain before ‘Wear Black’ ups the anti with a haunting organ melody juxtaposed against the more traditional DVG elements.
‘Abre Camino’ is a bit different, with a slower tempo which draws attention to a haunting, repetitive melody with half whispered lyrics that enthral. ‘Born Again and Again’ has a menacing countenance which tingles the spine and ‘Street Justice’ throws in more than a hint of a raw, garage rock ensemble; DVG clearly know their genre and they manipulate its sounds perfectly. Penultimate ‘Occupation: Ghost Writer’ starts the ethereal theme which climaxes in ‘TV in Jail on Mars’ which is stunningly beautiful and yet terrifyingly ominous with its cult-esque chanting.
Death Valley Girls push the boundaries associated with rock music, bringing in sounds they like to create something new and refreshing, there aren’t many bands who have the skill to pull it off, but they certainly do.