Margaret Lee - The Ballad of Beelzebub - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Margaret Lee - The Ballad of Beelzebub

by Andy Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2013-03-11

The Ballad of Beelzebub is a strange, almost chameleonic record and one that takes a few listens before you really start to listen. It's being released by La Cantina Appena Sotto La Vita, the same label responsible for last year's Phillip Glass-influenced ESMA album, The Lost/Last Atoms. Margaret Lee haven't made a modern-classical record, however; they've made a noisy, underground rock record with a penchant for punk-rock and Satanic themes. Having said that, I'm not sure exactly what Margaret Lee are singing about as they sing entirely in Italian. But for this listener, this language 'barrier' simply adds another layer of mystery to an already intriguing sonic palette.

The album starts with, 'The Ballad of Beelzebub'. There's the sound of hurried footsteps, the hum of machinery and, what I like to imagine, is an old metal lift-shaft slowly descending into the dark. The ambiguity is shattered just over a minute in when a simple, propulsive guitar riff comes in and Margaret Lee turn into a kind of Italian Nirvana. Things are going to get a whole lot stranger before the album's through.

Each track is a mini-epic, with the urgent howl of main vocalist James Marighelli coupled to the band's metamorphic compositions. Margaret Lee use deceptively simple techniques but manage to create wholly hypnotic oddities. Take the fuzzy chords and tumbling rhythms of 'The Illusionist', a strangely powerful song who's hypnotic chord sequences seem to draw you into somewhere dark, unusual and ever so slightly ominous. It's like you're stumbling through the woods after dark in David Lynch's beautifully weird Twin Peaks.

'Remorse' has a kind of sexy, blues swagger while a few tracks on the album have me picturing James Marighelli as a kind of Italian Frank Black. The epic and mildly unsettling closing track, 'Judas Or the Night of the Moon Virgin' stretches the band's twisted imagination even further. By this point, you're sat in The Black Lodge talking to a dwarf, a giant and a sinister looking gent called Bob (sorry, more Twin Peaks referencing). Margaret Lee have created an album with almost hallucinogenic qualities. It'll probably be banned in most countries.

The album works incredibly well as a whole and it's definitely the best way to appreciate what Margaret Lee are trying to do. The instrumentation veers between punk rock urgency and something altogether stranger; it's a balance the band get just right. The Ballad of Beelzebub has all the sex, danger and mystery you can handle and for 40 minutes you're completely under its spell. Life is strange and thankfully, so are Margaret Lee.

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