Although we‘ve visited the world of Death Roots Syndicate (DRS) previously with our review of Stroszek‘s „A Break in the Day“, truth is, we haven‘t explored properly the creepy, haunted world of dark folk/death country – a genre to which DRS is dedicated. And I think today‘s is the perfect time for getting familiar with one such artist – please, meet Jeremiah Crow.
„Graveside Stories“ is the compilation album made of songs from his two previous releases, „Dark Appalachian Gospel“ (5 songs) and „Distilled Funeral Hymns“ (4 songs), released in September 2013.
Opening the album is „Old Father Death“. From the very beginning you can imagine those old wooden houses and cottages hidden and fading away in Appalachian Mountains, getting creepier with the sun going down. The guitar, in it‘s simplicity, evokes the feeling of uneasiness and Jeremiah‘s voice is like a Death itself reciting what‘s inevitably coming for all of us. The song is nicely structured and with additional instruments (drums, accordeon) and strange noises, it‘s a perfect introduction to the genre.
Second track is „Cwn Annwn“ which I presume is something Welsh, but I have no idea what does it stands for. Again, we‘re dealing with haunting atmosphere – one almost wonders how can it be created with just a guitar, spoons and what I think is either empty bottles or something similar (plus, later in the song, I think it‘s a banjo). It sounds absolutely fantastic. And the lyrics! The lyrics are just beautiful. Creepily, hautingly beautiful.
„Rock of Ages“, hypnotic with guitar and organ (plus one more instrument I can‘t identify), loosely using the Biblical imagery upon at times slightly disharmonic tones of pain and suffering. It‘s a paradox – such a music shouldn‘t be „liked“, it‘s not funny and it certainly brings with it a spirit of hopelessness and despair. Nevertheless, there is a certain beauty in the darknes it evokes, a dimly lit room in a house surrounded by nothing but woods suddenly brought to life by the night. And still, it‘s creepy!
„In Vain, I‘ve Sinned“ introduces a fuzzy bass and we‘re trapped by a little faster song, but instead of calming us down with an upbeat tune, it brings up the feeling of urgency…and again, the lyrics! This is pure, undistilled horror and I mean it. Or maybe singing about cutting some woman‘s throat from ear to ear was meant to be funny…who knows. But this one is one hell of a song.
„No Mercy“ – a short song, poetic and somewhat ironic with it‘s „no mercy in this world“, but it‘s actually full of wisdom and surprisingly with a great dose of morbid humour just in a few lines.
„River of Blood“ is another track which could be a perfect example of backwoods‘ gospel music. But the gospel imagery is presented here in the contrast of the horrible acts of killing … in the name of God. Another atmospheric tune emphasized by mouth-harp and the hiss of the record, altogether sounding like a funeral band on the road side being passed by a procession.
I am pretty sure „The Lord‘s Plague“ says it all even before the first tune being played. And kidding you not, this one is fucking disturbing. It‘s like Jeremiah is standing right next to you, whispering to your ear all those unwelcome truths, while you want to shut him up, but you can‘t. And the music is a perfect companion to these lyrics full of black death.
After this one, next track – „The Gallows“ – sounds almost soothing, although, well, Jeremiah sings about being hanged because of him killing some girls. Nice subject, indeed. But I imagine it might be quite a staple in campfire stories, And the creaking floor sounds during the songs make me happy I don‘t listen to this album during the night. Hell no!
And the last song is „The Black Goat of the Woods“, the ultimate 7 and a half minute long epic about the Black Goat of the Woods With The Thousand Young, which the primitive man called Shub-Niggurath. I can actually see it in my mind as some end credit music to a Lovecraft-themed movie! Well, as you can see, this is pretty much NOT your average country with Hank Williams or Willie Nelson, but I’d argue it’s much interesting than some “yee-haw” stuff in a cowboy hat. And in the middle of the song we’re somewhat switched to a tune evoking a pseudo-medieval atmosphere and the ever-present feel of the sickness and plague spreads again with the ritual-like melody. The final déjà vu motiff repeated from the beginning just emphasized the weird madness of this song and with the end of the song comes also the end of the whole compilation album.
Wow, what an experience! It won’t be my most favourite album, I can say, but as for the effect of the music on the listener, this one is absolutely effective. And if you have never experienced a dark folk / death country music, this one is a great introduction to the genre.
Download it here.