Rough Times

Written by: AP on 10/11/2017 21:35:50

Kadavar timed their merging into the ‘70s rock revival movement perfectly, arriving just as the likes of Graveyard, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Witchcraft had established momentum and captured the interest of many an audiophile looking to escape the throes of modern heavy music and its excessive polish. The German power trio’s style was not radically different from the dozens of other bands hoping to capitalise on the genre’s success, but like the three pioneering artists mentioned above, Kadavar did possess the differential of not only sounding retro, but also boasting a knack for writing ridiculously catchy tunes. Unlike most of their peers, the Berlin-based outfit has also largely rejected the lure of sticking to a familiar formula; between each record, Kadavar has been undertaking a constant, if subtle evolution, trading in the classic doom of their eponymous début for slivers of heavy psych (on 2013’s “Abra Kadavar”) and canonical blues-rock (on their 2015 effort, “Berlin”).

This fourth and latest LP, “Rough Times”, however describes a rather more substantial leap. The first thing one notices is the rawer and fuzzier tone now utilised by guitarist Christoph Bartelt and bassist Simon Bouteloup (who usually go by the pseudonyms Lupus and Dragon), which suggests that, having played at numerous stoner centric festivals in the last couple of years, Kadavar might have developed a penchant for stoner rock and allowed themselves to be inspired by the genre during the creation of this record. There is no need to worry about a paradigm shift though; certainly, the opening trident does rope in elements that are more customary to Electric Wizard, Sleep and their ilk, and thus represents Kadavar’s heaviest produce to date. But for the most part, the influence remains quite fleeting and it would be difficult to point out moments in which the band ceases to be recognisable. The bass and guitar riffs deployed in “Into the Wormhole” and “Skeleton Blues” take on a more droning character to be sure, but by the virtue of Lupus’ unmistakable, Ozzy Osbourne-sque singing and savvy for dynamic and impactful voice inflection, they are no less idiosyncratic or catchy than the older material for which Kadavar has garnered fame. And no matter what, these tracks would likely still lead one’s thoughts toward Kadavar because of the production; the band maintains a preference for hard panning techniques, placing guitar on the left, vocals in the middle, drums on the inside right and bass on the far right to create a mix that is so innate to how the trio looks and sounds live from the audience perspective, that it has practically become their emblem and trademark.

In being so different to what one is accustomed to hearing from Kadavar, yet having lost none of the infectiousness that put them on everyone’s lips, “Skeleton Blues” actually distinguishes itself as one of the finest tracks on the record, and the rather more psychedelic and spacey “Into the Wormhole” follows hot on its trail. But by and large, most of the lasting value is still found in the band’s comfort zone, where they channel their proudly worn Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin fandom into dark and intense heritage rock’n’roll bangers. Revisiting the approach that made “Berlin” so unforgettable, the likes of “Die Baby Die”, “Vampires” and “Tribulation Nation” all sound like radio smash hits shoved through a kaleidoscope, evoking a familiar sense of transcendence, despair and impending doom as the trio etches them into the fabric of your memory by simple yet effective means — strong verses, an even stronger chorus, and guitar solos dripping with nerve. These three songs comprise the meat of the album in liaison with “Words of Evil” and “The Lost Child”, the latter of which is a brooding yet ambitious slow-burner laced with organ, flute and Spaghetti Western vibes, and as such the sort of composition that might have served as an excellent finale.

Alas, Kadavar’s thirst for experimentation was not quenched by their early dabbles into stoner rock and instead, “Rough Times” concludes with the incongruous pairing of a sunny and uplifting, Oasis-style ballad (“You Found the Best in Me”) and an ambient spoken word piece (“A l’ombre du temps”) that have next to nothing in common with the rest of the album. There is no tiptoeing around the reality that these two songs drag the overall impression down — most of all, they sound like b-sides or bonus tracks that were not thought into the flow of the record in the slightest. Rather than burning out in style, “Rough Times” thus ends up fizzling out like a dud firework. It is easy to forgive the trio this lapse in judgment, however, because excepting the anonymously proto-metallic “Words of Evil”, the songs that precede it are so riveting. In summary then, “Rough Times” contains some of the best material that Kadavar has ever written but in terms of completeness, it does not measure up to the standards set by its three predecessors.


Download: Skeleton Blues, Die Baby Die, Vampire, Tribulation Nation
For the fans of: Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Pentagram, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats
Listen: Facebook

Release date 29.09.2017
Nuclear Blast Records

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