Bellhound Choir

Imagine The Crackle

Written by: AP on 27/05/2016 14:49:56

While the now defunct Pet the Preacher was still active, its frontman Christian Hede Madsen entertained a solo project dubbed Hound on the side, a means to channel his fascination with the blues and folk inspirations that were incompatible with the heavy rock format of his dayjob. But as the ‘Preacher was laid to rest last year, the solo stuff became Madsen’s primary occupation and was refashioned into the more mature Bellhound Choir in the process. Focusing rather on atmosphere and emotion than on the badass riffs and ripping solos that characterised the ‘Preacher palette, the invocation of his natural talent for playing guitar is far subtler here as Madsen invites us to… well, “Imagine the Crackle” of a bonfire and let ourselves be engulfed by the gravelly, reverberating voice and moody lyricism of our narrator.

Laced with violin soliloquies by Søren Stensby and elegant use of the slide guitar technique by Madsen himself, the opening track “Bad Dreams” sets the overall tone for the album with sizzling, downtrodden blues/folk rock and the main man musing ”The future’s bright, am I right? ‘Cos we all live in a world of bad dreams. We all live in a hurricane of bad truths. And that’s why I turn, that’s why I turn to the beer, to the beer and to the blues”. The song heralds the introduction of an album that is less about singles and more about slowly, carefully conjuring an atmosphere of gloom and melancholia, and as such an album that requires total immersion — preferably sat in a rocking chair on some derelict porch, a tumbler of bourbon at hand, just regretting stuff. Madsen does offer the odd respite with the respectively almost Counting Crows-esque and Monster Magnet-style initial halves of “No Roads Left to Follow” and “Havoc”, but by and large the sound is anchored into destitution.

Indeed, “Imagine the Crackle” is an intense and evocative listening experience, tugging at the heart strings with songs such as the exquisite, yet absolutely devastating “Slow Pain”, which is somehow reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s masterpiece “Hallelujah”. Madsen’s trusty cohort Camilla Munck lends a mesmerising touch to its haunting chorus, and by the time the smoke of her voice evaporates with ”Slow, slow pain. It’s not mine, no, it’s not mine. Slow, slow pain. It’s not mine this time, no, it’s not mine this time”, you must be devoid of any feeling if your eyes have not begun to glisten with verging tears. Together with the subsequent “Black Spot”, the song is the prefect exposé for the understated, low-key style of Madsen’s songwriting, which nonetheless brims with emotion. He has a special penchant for conveying emotions not just with his singing and lyrics, but also the way he constructs a melody with his guitar. “On Your Own” is another stunning piece, and one of the few moments where a superb guitar melody actually pilfers the limelight. It has that same lonesome vastness as Eddie Vedder’s “Long Nights” from his soundtrack to Sean Penn’s 2007 film “Into the Wild”, and despite the guitar assuming a more pronounced role, the track simultaneously boasts one of the most powerful vocal performances that “Imagine the Crackle” has to offer.

The interesting thing is that for all its sombreness and wrenching at your emotions, “Imagine the Crackle” effects a sort of infatuation with darkness on the listener; an insatiable desire to keep returning to the dejection of a song like “Distant Horizons”. The meshwork of baritone violin and semi-distorted power chords near the end, not to mention the chilling duet between Madsen and Munck as the two sing ”Yeah, the distant horizon is falling, the distant horizon is falling. The distant horizon is falling, and it won’t be long ’til it hits me.” establishes itself as one of the most stunning picks from an album bursting with so many noteworthy creations that even some of the less striking choices such as “Havoc” and “Sail On” have difficulty attempting to dampen my newfound enthusiasm for Bellhound Choir. That an artist of John Garcia’s (Kyuss, Unida, etc.) status and calibre has cast his affection for Madsen’s project of late is thus much less surprising than it should be, just as my regret surrounding Pet the Preacher’s untimely demise feels much less relevant, listening to “Imagine the Crackle”. The record is an illustration of Madsen taking his songwriting prowess to the next level, and although ‘perfection’ would be stretching it at this point, Bellhound Choir seems destined to etch itself into the hearts and minds of the heavy rock, blues and even neo-folk connoisseurs of the world.


Download: Slow Pain, No Roads Left to Follow, On Your Own, Distant Horizons
For the fans of: Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, King Dude, Mark Lanegan
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Release date 20.05.2016
Bad Afro Records

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