- by Sean Hewson Rating:10 Release Date:2019-09-20 Label: Riot Season
The cover of Scottish Space Race, the new album from Glasgow’s The Cosmic Dead, is a picture of Scotland without the rest of the UK. Seems fair enough really. On this, their seventh album, Omar Aborida (bass) and James T McKay (guitar) have been joined by Tommy Duffin (Headless Kross) on drums and Russell Gray (Girl Sweat) on lap-steel and synth. The album was mastered by the master – John McBain.
Portal starts out with swirling, whooshing Klaus Schulze synth drones. The momentum increases as Duffin gets in amongst his cymbals. They hold out for almost 6 minutes before McKay hits the first chord and Duffin gets in amongst his toms. Slowly a two-note Occult-sounding chant comes into view – like an over-caffeinated Electric Wizard. Gray’s lap-steel bears no resemblance to the lap-steel on Country records, it is an overdriven and delayed space demon lurching around. When the tension becomes unbearable, The Cosmic Dead take it up a gear into a total freak-out, like Mainliner or Acid Mother’s Temple at their most incendiary. You follow the individual instruments at your peril. It’s better to just give yourself over to the effects of the G Force. They finish up with a Stooges/Monster Magnet riff and screaming. It has been a brutal twenty minute attack in four stages and this is just the first track. The Cosmic Dead re-set and start Ursa Major like the early 70s Pink Floyd with Aborida’s bass taking the lead. Guitar and lap-steel noodle threateningly whilst Duffin picks up the beat. A Dead/Quicksilver-like jam begins to take shape with McKay playing more melodically. After 6 minutes he really begins to cut loose as Gray whips up a storm of noise out of which the rhythm section set off on a new, more urgent path. Gray is now on synth and soloing along with McKay – it could almost be Prog if it wasn’t delivered with such abandon. This time, when the tension becomes unbearable, The Cosmic Dead drop back a little and Aborida and McKay start trading dirty-sounding riffs. Gray swoops back in on synth and they build themselves back up to a frenzied ending. The title track is next and the band get into it quickly with an intro like the start of I Wanna Be Your Dog. They then head out on a Hawkwind-like song/chant. It also brings to mind Gnod but with broad Scottish accents. The main riff is a hacking one-chord guitar assault. The ‘Can you dig it?’ chorus has been used before, but probably not like this. The chanting stops but the pounding continues until the band switch to total freak-out with Aborida going insane on the bass. The freak-out begins to take a recognisable form and the chanting/shouting returns and becomes increasingly unhinged as Gray fires off the whooshing space noises. It’s a brilliantly moronic vomit of fury. The Grizzard is the last and longest track. It starts with a Doomy two-chord riff whilst Gray builds up noise in the background. As it gets louder Duffin begins to crash around his kit like he’s anxious to get things moving. Soon the pace begins to increase and the riff is reborn as a much faster and more complicated beast. It’s music for car chases. McKay embarks on a remarkably together solo given the intensity of the track. They’re not even a quarter of the way through and they’re all absolutely flying. As insane as the sound of the band is, the song is very structured and they move through verses and chorus at breakneck speed. Dual guitar solos fly over the top of the song structure along with Gray’s wall of noise. Halfway through, just as the intensity is becoming scary, they re-set and head off on an equally loud but more staccato riff with shouting, quite like on the title track. The interesting thing about The Cosmic Dead on this album is that they change pace and arrangement but the level of intensity very rarely dips but, instead, always seems to be increasing. Soon the whole band are raging and shouting. The pace gathers until, again, you have to stop focussing on individual elements for fear of losing your mind. They begin to embark on the slower, epic ending after 18 minutes as they need 6 minutes to bring the beast to heel.
I think that this might be the third album by The Cosmic Dead that I’ve reviewed and, to me, it’s their greatest achievement. The drumming of Tommy Duffin and, particularly, the synth and lap-steel of Russell Gray have been intelligent additions to Aborida and McKay’s sound. The band’s ability to not only move through the gears but also find new, higher gears, makes these long tracks flash past in a blur of adrenalin. If they’re leaving (country or planet), I’m going with them.