Salem - King Night - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Salem - King Night

by Ashley Curtis Rating:8 Release Date:2010-09-28

It's a testament to Salem's music making that another bizarre tag for a genre has had to be affixed to the Michigan trio's sound - in this case, 'witch house' - but it's actually very apt. Salem have really managed to fuse a sonically spooky sound with powerful synth lines and haunting vocal mixes - like Justice dressing up for Halloween.

John Holland, Heather Marlatt, and Jack Donoghue are the integral puzzle pieces which form the mournful sound Salem create. Each member contributes on the vocal parts of King Night and this really adds some variety to the record. Heather's spaced-out, angelic vocals on 'Frost' intertwine perfectly with the dark, moody synth lines and the male droning on 'Hound' works particularly well with the hard-hitting, driving synth. However, the slowed down, South-tinged rapping on 'Sick' seems to go against the grain of what the music is trying to bring across. They've clearly taken influence from some of their early Gucci Mane remixes and, while they are bearable, appear far too often ('Trapdoor' and 'Tair' suffer from this) and don't represent the best of what King Night has to offer. Lyrically, the album is incredibly difficult to decipher because the vocals have so many layers of effects. You can make out a few words here and there but the singing and rapping mainly acts as more of an instrument and thus a companion to the synth lines rather than a stand-alone part of the music.

Existing Salem fans won't be surprised to hear that 'Redlights' makes an appearance (as it did on their first two EP's, Yes, I Smoke Crack and the less controversially named Water) and it represents one of the finest tracks of the album. Much like the second track, 'Asia', it has an increasingly erratic drum beat that mirrors a metal drummer doing a really tinny double kick phrase. In fact, a lot of the haunting aspects of black metal, not musically but more atmospherically, can be heard in King Night. It is chilling in the mood it connotes but that constant wall of noise acts as a reassuring companion throughout the journey. It's just a shame that the cringe-worthy rapping almost ruins the trip.

There are such a wide range of sounds and noises on offer here which make the first few playthroughs difficult to digest. It represents King Night's biggest drawback because there is always a danger that the listener might not 'get it' but it's a factor that Salem won't be particularly fussed about. King Night doesn't want to be listened to by those who aren't open to the raw expressivity on offer here. It feels deliberately hard to access but that just makes it all the more rewarding for those who persevere.

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