|Drug Honkey's new effort sounds more consistent than everything they've done before, but it also left some of the magic behind.|
|Let's first warn the sensitive listener, even the casual listener: Drug Honkey's 'Ghost in the Fire' is a collection of tracks that explore the raw and aggressive reality of a world in ruins. The unvarnished depiction of a moral and physical dereliction expressed with the rage of an instinctive rebellion…|
Blah, blah, blah…
This is how I started the first rough draft of that review. I wanted to introduce this band with all the consideration due to their uncompromising attitude, mean and disrespectful to the rules, that I thought was really groundbreaking. I wanted to pay tribute to their weird, exclusive mix of Sludge Doom and Electro. Well, re-reading that introduction, I had to acknowledge I laid it on thick. This new release of those four American guys, while truly an achievement, and a step forward on their previous material, has definitely left some of the magic behind.
Drug Honkey have been active since 2002, releasing four full-length albums and one live recording; already what can be described as a career, although the American quartet is still largely unknown to most Doom fans. I found out about them when they released their second album, ' Hail Satan' as a free download some years ago. I was thrilled by the clever mix of Electro and Doom Death Metal that set them quite apart on the Doom scene, not far from Zaraza or P.H.O.B.O.S., but not really part of the same league either. The difference lies in the way the Electro infuses their dark Doom framework. That synthetic web is less indebted to the Industrial scene than it is to the Dark Electro movement, often touching the fringe of Dark Ambient, embracing the ritualist dimension of it, anyway. Drug Honkey's own inferno is more organic, it is very human, it wears very tangible wounds, open scars that invite the listener to a chaotic voyage into the human psyche. The machines are mere vehicles, means to enhance the paranoia, the fundamental unrest that lies in the heart of the music. However the core of the music is still made of real musicians, handling real instruments but playing with all the effects they can to deconstruct, deteriorate and modulate the sound so that it won't fit in any mould anymore, so that the resulting schizophrenic flow escapes all traditional format.
That personal vision of Doom had, up until now, been translated with a sort of lunatic joy. It was all about confronting Electro to (sludgy) Doom with a sense of distance and an overall irony that makes repeated listens very entertaining. Now, here comes 'Ghost in the Fire', and as I said, it does show a positive development in the band's quest for integrity. You clearly hear them trying to give a cohesive meaning to chaos. And that's where they lost me a bit: 'Death Dub', their previous effort, still had an air of disorganized kaleidoscope, a bloated exercise thought out to impress – which it did brilliantly. This new album is far more structured, the atmospherics are more concentrated on what I perceive as the strong undercurrent trailing through the album: a thick feeling of utter bleakness. The extravagance has given way to a kind of maturity: the effects are less randomly scattered around the tracks, I'd even say nothing feels random anymore: there's a strong focus that hold the reins of the compositions, keeping them on track. By simplifying the vision, that newly gained control also makes the whole sound far more dense, revolving around a solid axis. Drug Honkey are now following in the footsteps of Godflesh, a slow vortex of crushing sonic waves, an outlet for hatred, as the lyrics say. Curt sentences, short words, cutting like razorblades, like the spasmodic attempts of a man reluctant to communicate, to express himself, in spite of all. This gives the flow a hectic and aggressive edge that increases the album's aura of supreme bitterness.
All that could be perceived as enthusiastic praise. I have to be more balanced in my comments, though: this new taste for cohesiveness pushed all the frenzy that made the band's other albums so enjoyable out of the way. It's darker, but less complex, deeper but less challenging. 'Ghost in the Fire' is by no means a bad album per se, but, being familiar with what the band has produced before, it is a bit disappointing in that it sounds more common.
Also, the problem with this type of band is that it definitely sits on the fence. And I can't see a lot of Metalheads loving it, or even being just vaguely interested in it. On the contrary, those toxic emanations could be greedily inhaled by Electro-freaks, masochists with a taste for aural insanity. That concession they made to balance and focus, to the detriment of more chaotic songwriting, was a choice I respect, although I don't think it makes the sense of alienation conveyed by the music more gripping. As it is, of course, it's still a solid slab of Electro-Industrial Doom and if you're among the handful of fans who enjoy that kind of kick, have a listen, you won't regret it!
Click HERE to discuss this review on the doom-metal forum.
1. Order of the Solar Temple
2. Ghost in the Fire
3. Weight of the World
4. This Time I Won't Hesitate
5. In Black Robe
6. Dead Days (Heroin III)
7. Five Years Up
8. Out of My Mind
9. Twitcher (Scorn cover)
Duration : Approx: 51 minutes
Visit the Drug Honkey bandpage.