Jersey City-based Black Wail have released three EPs since forming in 2014, but their six-song debut for hometown label Rhyme & Reason Records is their best work yet.
On Chromium Homes, Jersey City-based Black Wail’s label debut for hometown label Rhyme & Reason Records, three muscular suites sandwich three radio-ready tracks for a station in hell. The meaty six-song bounty opens with the first suite, “They,” a blues-dripping dose of psychedelia that pits Black Sabbath-like guitar against Deep Purplesque organ before all hell breaks loose in an extended bridge that turns into a completely different song. The ensuing dirge-like metal march demonstrates the range of founder Michael Tarlazzi’s vocals, from Ozzy-inspired singing to demonic growl before taking a stroll back down the Sabbath Road.
Then there’s “Thee Ghost,” a spellbinding look at death and the afterlife that somehow manages to equalize the fiery chug of Megadeth and with the synth orchestration of Pink Floyd, before descending into a thick, slow-paced rhythm and ethereal three-part harmony. The sweltering but well-sung soup intensifies like the roller coaster depicted on the cover before coming to an eerie end.
The third suite, “The Dead Man’s Hand,” opens with the kind of offbeat rhythms and quirky nuances that Tool would use, but then goes in a different direction by relying on Tarlazzi’s more evil-sounding vocals. A Doors-like keyboard keeps the listener guessing as once again at about the midway mark, a disparate tune is explored that, like “Thee Ghost,” looks at how the devil can drive you mad before reaching the inevitability of death. Catharsis is found in the return of that tickling “Riders on the Storm”-like organ riff provided by the talented Bram Teitelman, formerly of Murder 1.
In between the suites is the title track, a reluctant ode to the toxic swamps of JC, and “Radioactive Mutation,” a sinisterly robotic mini suite that would make the perfect contribution to a film soundtrack that Trent Reznor was supervising. In a closing cover, Black Wail revel in revealing the horror The Beatles camouflaged in the worldly folk-pop of “Norwegian Wood.”
A colorful tapestry of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd sewn in the dark edges of Megadeth, Monster Magnet, Motörhead and The Misfits, Black Wail are all over the place. But their musical sincerity, genuineness and passion combine with the mixing prowess of John Seymour, a Grammy-winning engineer of Santana’s Supernatural album, to forge a record as focused as a torpedo bent on death and destruction. The mix of metal, grunge, stoner rock and haunting atmospherics boasts a strong range of vocals from metallic to melodic, as well as harmonic on “Norwegian Wood” and “Thee Ghost.” A fantastic wash of psychedelic, doomy and bluesy guitar styles, surprisingly effective keyboards that add layers of grace and ghoulishness, and the mighty, menacing rhythms of bassist Susan Lutin and drummer Ed Chaurreun also are among the highlights.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.