Psychedelic space-rock is not something Germany is particularly well known for. BLACK SPACE RIDERS look set to change that perception as they release their latest album, the first of a two-parter, Amoretum Vol 1.
Mixing thunderous stoner-rock riffs which pack serious clout with psychedelic synth-tinged melodies, BLACK SPACE RIDERS‘ sound is pure space-rock. This is most apparent on Another Sort of Homecoming, and opener Lovely Lovelie, both packed full of pummelling riffs and pounding drums, but threaded through with a other-worldly tint. Less heavy overall than its predecessor Beyond Refugeeum, Amoretum’s blow is still apparent in places like Friends Are Falling and Fire! Fire! (Death of a Giant).
The latter is a neat illustration of the album’s biggest downfall: the vocalists inability to stick to a style consistently. On Fire!…, the cleaner vocals sound as if DAVID BOWIE had spent far too long in an underground punk band. On opener Lovely Lovelie, it’s a mellow Tom Araya. Immediately following, Another Sort of Homecoming shows off beautiful clean vocals, like a much more mellow Dave Wyndorf which serve to greatly add to the space-rock atmosphere. When the music beneath them is so good, the inconsistent vocal styles are a hindrance to the band reaching its full potential.
The music underpinning those confused vocals is solid. It’s not necessarily ground-breaking, but the drums from C.RIP are thunderous, and the inter-playing guitars of SLI and JE are fantastically skillful – especially on Fire!… and in the denouements of both Soul Shelter (Inside of Me) and Friends Are Falling. The dexterous bass riff that opens the latter is as seductive as it is menacing, and continues to drive the song forward with real gusto. The bass-driven storming riffs of Come and Follow completely negate the pseudo-Serj Tankian edge to the singing.
This serves to highlight the main problem with the album. The band demonstrate fantastic skill at what they do, so the inconsistencies in the vocal styles across the album make little sense. This is especially true when it is considered in the context of their outstanding discography. On both Refugeeum and Beyond Refugeeum the vocals are much heavier, much closer to what might be considered ‘standard’ stoner rock vocals. Think a deeper Dave Wyndorf tone, mixed with the gruffer edges of Neil Farron and you may be close. But on Amoretum, this is forsaken in favour of an odd jumble of styles, all of which just about work for their given song, but none of which work for a whole album. Had it been recorded with the vocals from Refugeeum, then Amoretum would pack an even bigger punch. As it is, the confused vocals drag it down from hitting the same heights as its predecessors.
However, Amoretum Vol 1 is still well worth a listen, and repeated spins demonstrate that the vocal styles aren’t everything: catch the nifty drum fill at the 4:40 mark on Fire!…, for example. Thunderous stoner-rock riffs underpin the melodic space-rock threaded throughout, and the album shows a lot of promise. A second part is promised for later this year, and while it may well tie up some of the looser ends of this first volume, if Vol 1 is anything to go by, it will be worth the wait.
Amoretum Vol. 1is out January 26 via Black Space Records
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