There is something about the music that I write about here that seems to attract people who, at the moment, see to feel that we are on the wrong side of history. The very nature of the ‘scene’ is that it is outside the mainstream mediated through small independent labels, left field bands and websites/ fanzines that are well away from any media that could be construed as being ‘mass’. We seem to possess a certain pride of having found something that we love, yet are often surprised when we turn up at a gig and there is hardly anybody there. This has happened to me a few times with the Cult of Dom Keller, a band which invariably plays blistering live sets to an audience that has somehow belied the chatter about them on the internet.
The two previous albums by the Nottingham-based four piece have been heavy and dark, almost unremittingly so and, if you add in vocalist/ guitarist Ryan’s solo album in the guise of Cathode Ray Eyes, you get a picture of a band that are playing on the edge not only of the music scene but also of psychology and culture. There is something about the black dog of depression that pervades the Cult of Dom Keller’s music, replete as it is with deep dark fuzz and almost brain numbing intensity…tuning out but not out of tune.
I have no knowledge nor desire to pin any political views on the band, but the constant feeling that I have had when listening to this album is that – while it takes the band further away from the ‘psych’ music where it seems to have found an audience in the past – this is very much an album which is pervaded with that feeling of the outsider. With that notion that events are leading inexorably towards a darker place, and the band have said that this is an album based around the concept of uncertainty…an album about ‘the end’.
This is only amplified by the band moving towards a more ‘goth’ sound on this album. For those who have followed the band thus far this may not sound like a welcome move, and I did wonder whether I first heard the album, but now I have seen past that I have to say that this is a very accomplished piece of work. There are signs of the old Dom Keller here, notably in ‘Bring Out The Dead’, but even here there is sonically more depth to the song and a mix that, while still possessing that dark fuzziness, is somehow less opaque. Elsewhere there are elements of bands such as Depeche Mode (‘Hole in the Whole’), Killing Joke (‘Shambala is on Fire’ and ‘Astrum Argentum’), The Sisters of Mercy (‘Broken Arm of God’) and Bauhaus (‘Ravens and Rockets’). I don’t want to overplay this though because this is an album of much greater depth and diversity than that. It is also an album of great of control with such as ‘Deepest Pit of Emptiness’ exuding a sense of repressed despair and repeated listens only causes to deepen. The experimentalism is also there throughout the album, but particularly in the stark interlude of ‘I Can See You’, perhaps pointing to a more abstract future direction which would indeed be an exciting prospect.
This then is an album that takes what was already there, especially from the band’s ‘Second Bardo‘ album, and turns everything up a notch: the darkness, the alienation, the sense of doom. In the process Cult of Dom Keller have added more elements to the sonic palette to reflect that greater intensity. There are glimpses of melody where previously there were none and there is more accessibility through the fuzzed depths (as if the band are prepared to reveal just a bit more of what is going on below the surface). This is the sound of a band developing and giving more of themselves to their music, a band whose essence has become more potent, perhaps a little bit further from the outside but closer to the end.
‘Goodbye To The Light’ is out on Fuzz Club Records on July 22nd, and available to pre-order here.
You can find my other writing for Backseat Mafia here.