[30th April 2013]
[Metal Blade/Rise Above Records]
01. Wake Up Sleepy Head
02. The Contract
03. Spiderwood Farm
04. Sailor Wife’s Lament
05. Leaning On A Bear
06. Tempest And The Tide
07. Mavericks And Mystics
08. Well Spoiled Machine
09. Sapphire Ward
10. Rocking Horse
11. Tragic Catastrophe
Conjuring up images of the early ’70s occult rock scene are British band Purson, whilst listening to whom bands like Coven and Black Widow are not far from mind, with the keyboard love reminding listeners of Deep Purple from the In Rock to Machine Head era. The band is fronted by the multi-talented Rosalie Cunningham, whose haunting vocals and expert guitar playing are front and center on this album. When the first full track “The Contract” hits your eardrums it is full of heartily delivered lyrics, with Barnaby Maddick’s high bass playing and Samuel Shove’s keyboards paying homage to Jon Lord as well as the U.S.’s The Doors. The band is also very close in sound to Canada’s Blood Ceremony, with less emphasis on evil and more of it being put towards the overall delivery of the music.
When you meet up with “Spiderwood Farm” it feels like what Opeth was trying to do on their Heritage and Damnation albums – but it feels more at home with a female vocalist, who recalls the days of the famed Jinx Dawson. The main guitar line is backed up excellently by the bass playing; there is not find a single slouch as a part of this band. Ample use of the Wurlitzer organ and the mellotron add more elements of emotion and mystique, and the ebbs and flows of the album become more drastic with the progression from track to track, and even some carnival sound effects give the record a spooky aura all of its own.
The most accessible song on the album is their single “Leaning On A Bear”. There’s ample organ to push the song along, as Cunningham again does an expert job on vocals, and with excellent effects added to her already stellar voice. The band put a great emphasis on subtlety – something fans of black metal are sure to appreciate – as the songs grow stronger on repeated listens. The guitar solo section is put through an echo effect and the riffs soar through what feels like a void in space, sucking you in like a vacuum with no remorse. Jack Hobbs’ drums are also insanely catchy and require air-drumming to them whether you want to or not.
The mixture of guitars and keyboards from the very start of “Mavericks and Mystics” is really powerful, as is the bridge section that connects various different parts of this song. Riff-centric throughout, it shows you can be more effective without having to downtune your guitars beyond recognition. This feels like a rock album with its head turned 180 degrees from its start position, almost as if Linda Blair were playing on this album; psychedelic evil that feels so good. “Well-Spoiled Machine” is another song that is bass-based that also focuses on heavy psychedelic elements and a guitar that quite simply, roars. Cunningham’s voice impresses me more than Blood Ceremony‘s Alia O’Brien and nearly as much as Jex Thoth and it is truly something to behold.
“Sapphire Ward” feels like a straightforward rocker, in the vein of the Swedish scene of proto-rock much like Witchcraft. The song slows to a psychedelic crawl before the heavy-handed main riff makes a return. The constant change in pace keep listeners guessing on what part of the band will be unleashed within a moment’s notice. The album ends on the notes of “Tragic Catastrophe”, which is a great title to help remind me that this stellar album is near its close. The emotions delivered throughout the album are still felt on this album closer, albeit with less play of the organ.
This album absolutely must be heard to believe that in 2013 an album complete with so many old school tendencies, yet feels so fresh, is truly amazing and already feels like an album that will be near the top of my year end list for sure. If you love psychedelic rock, excellent vocals, and an organ that should not be missed, then Purson is the band for you; The Circle And The Blue Door is the latest in a great trend of evil rock music played expertly and delivered with aplomb.