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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Allvey


P Paul Fenech ‘Demon Seed Rising’ Released: 29th October 2022 Reviewed by Kate, 12th November 2022 Mutant Rock Records Sometimes, my saint of a mother asks me when I am going to grow out of my ‘goth phase’. I don’t quite have the heart to tell her that listening to Mad Sin and wearing Collectif dresses isn’t exactly the same as my teenage mall goth lifestyle from my schooldays. Yet, when I hear an album as dark, twisted and devious as P. Paul Fenech’s latest offering, my inner goth comes out screeching like a bat from a crypt. This is the darkest psychobilly I’ve ever heard. It’s the vantablack of the psycho scene. It’s the gargoyle that scared the Nekromantix out of Copenhagen. And it is utterly glorious in its nastiness. The Meteors’ frontman (and arguably the originator of the psychobilly genre) has been releasing solo albums since 1992. This is his eleventh album with his own label, Mutant Rock Records, who very accurately describe it as ‘stuffed full of twang and evil intent with more than a hint of his personal madness in a sick variety of flavors.’ Fenech has never shied away from the gruesome and gory, even in the earliest Meteors records, but it’s unfair to directly compare this to his work with the Meteors. This is an insight into the labyrinthine recesses of Fenech’s mind and a world away from something like the swaggering patricide of ‘Psycho For Your Love’, and even a fair distance from his earlier solo releases. There’s very little of the punk sneer present on a track like 2006’s ‘The F-Word’. It’s also a long album, clocking in at over an hour and eighteen tracks. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I severely doubt Fenech cares about that. It is an album that is entirely beautiful and hideous in the same chord. Demon Seed Rising: It’s surf, definitely, but surf from a dimension where the seas are made of acid. A beautiful, desolate, dark and lonely instrumental. Nameless Song (For The Nameless Ones): There’s sinister brass and occasional haunting gongs under Fenech’s rasping howl that begins each verse. “Keep my soul, it’s forever yours” he implores, and it’s pretty clear it’s not a lover who’s looking to grasp his soul. An indescribably funereal tone lurks over this song, and every listen reveals more detail. Witchburner: A teasing, tense guitar line evolves into this screaming effect behind Fence’s vocals. It’s an unrelentingly and intelligently scornful industrial grind and it’s wonderful. Imagine shades of Josh Homme’s guitar on ‘Songs for the Deaf’ and the lear of a classic Marilyn Manson track, then mix those with some desert sand in a world where those two stars were not revealed to be awful people, and you’ve got Witchburner. Not Enough Time (To Say How Much I Hate You): A slap bass heralds a psychobilly song, albeit with the same child voice call and response as he used in earlier releases like ‘The F Word’. The guitar is pure Cramps-style grainy distortion and it’s a relief to hear a song that meets our expectations rather than flings them out the window. Just as an aside: most tracks on this album are very sweary so if you don’t enjoy four letter bombs, you may not love this. Planet of the Brain Eaters: This song would be a sci-fi b-movie, straight to video, rated 18 for excessive gore even though the whole thing is shot black and white. It’s another quieter, relatively simple song on first listen but the inclusion of this prowling bass and the classic Mysterons whistle to signal ‘bad aliens’ reveals intriguing depths. The echoing on the vocals and overall sinister vibes are a stroke of genius. Roll The Dice: Surprisingly, this is a rock song with a soft, post-punk atmosphere and a Joy Division meets Stone Roses riff. “I really don’t care what I do” sings Fenech pleasantly, and it’s very clear that he’s misleading us. He very much cares about what he does and absolutely knows exactly what to do to lure us into whatever mood he wants like a gigantic psychobilly spider with a vast web. Himhog (The Devils Tango): An ex-boyfriend accused me once of only liking music that was ‘about dead cowboys’. I wish this song was written when that statement was made, because it is the most funereal instrumental, absolutely made for a film in which a Mexican cowboy is brutally murdered. The drumming is brutal on this one and the slight pauses for chiming bells serve mostly to unnerve us. ‘Between The Light’: I love the drifting transitions between songs, and this is a natural successor to Himhog with the same mariachi twang on the guitar and vicious drumbeats. He’s been referred to as ‘The Meteors' dark lord’ and the image on the album cover features demon wings, and this song is the growling, entrancing chant of a cult leader calling in his followers. Goblin Bones:…and then, we get this song. Full of deeply unsettling Banjo, it’s the best song Demented Are Go never wrote and gives us the sound that Goddamn Gallows wish they could make. The darkest of Dark Country with a cute little bit of hi-hat underneath a fantasy theme. One Last Nail: Fenech’s voice is nearly lost amongst the distortion, the guitar becomes unhinged in the bridge and the drummer’s working overtime in this shout-along tail of a cheating woman. This song will be tremendous when played live, and the song seems vast and intimate at the same time. Juju Queen: A merciless and tough atmospheric number. Fenech never stops the tension for a second in this list of the attributes of the Juju Queen, and the drumming starts at the pace of a heartbeat then slowly starts to get faster. Eye of the Crow: Probably my favourite song on the album. “I don’t care what or who you are, my needs outstrip yours by far” whispers Fenech, and it’s lines like that which show he’s giving his audience more than a little respect while recording a terrifying stalker song which make us love him. The long buzzing organ and shifts between higher, more distorted sections and these somehow Spanish-sounding guitar licks makes the whole song very, very malicious. Time To Lose Your Mind: Another favourite. It’s the Joker’s corruption of Harley Quinn but set to a very ‘nice’ melody. There’s a fine line between cute and creepy: ‘I won’t let you sleep’ could be seen as an invitation to late night dates, as could ‘I always have time, time just for you’, but the twangy bass, samples of laughing children and dark surf guitar make it clear that Fenech definitely does intend it to be creepy. He really should not be underestimated as a musical craftsman. Rattle My Bones: The closest thing to a Meteors song, with saxophone, slap bass and a quick melody. The disturbing undercurrent is kept to a minimum (yes, it’s about dancing skeletons, but it seems more like the children’s classic Funny Bones than a zombie apocalypse.) and it’s destined to be a big hitter for any psychobilly band looking for a fantastic cover. The White Room: Covering Cream’s 1968 classic ode to despair and depression, Fenech wisely avoids any Clapton-like guitar shenanigans. His falsetto is upsetting and discordant when he’s more than capable of hitting the notes, and the original’s slightly defiant and otherworldly tone is warped into a Rob Zombie horror scenario via a sample of woman saying a pagan prayer. The production on this song is stunning. Cold Cold Ground: I’m not sure if the melody is supposed to be based on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, but Fenech should claim that it is. This is the anti-christmas song, a winter creeper about grave robbing in the style of Burke and Hare. He does play a Fagin-like villain very well and descends into full punk sneer whenever he can. The Worst Thing in The World: Demonic snarling and burbling introduce this swampy murder song with the occasional, barely noticeable organ notes sneaking in. Again, it’s this transition between the last song and this one which is so very professional. A pure rock guitar elevates this number above the horror. I would warn anyone sensitive to the sound of vomiting to skip this one as the supernatural noises are a little stomach-churning. Where Dwell the Damned: Only Fenech could make a triangle’s ting sound sinister. By placing instrumentals at the start and end of this record like bookmarks he’s made the whole album so much more cinematic, as if they’re the opening and ending credits. A soft release at the end like the exit sign at a haunted house. You will adore this record if you’re the kind of person who, like me, enjoys a lurid murder documentary or awaited the Munsters remake with baited breath. But even if you shy away from the dark and terrible, you can appreciate that this is an intelligent and complex record which drags you into a different dimension. It’s not a pleasant dimension, for sure, and there aren’t any ‘singalong’ or even ‘wreckalong’ songs on here. But it’s an album which will live in your head whether you want it to or not, and it’s a tremendous work which ranks among Fenech’s finest, no matter how you dressed as a teenager.

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