Back in 2018, Milwaukee-based garage rockers Devils Teeth took a deep bite out of our passions through debut album Suki Yaki Hot!, a tasty morsel we still gnaw on within our drive and hunger for new pleasures to this day. Now standing as a fresh rousing incitement and another reason to devour their antics, the band has uncaged new full-length La leggenda di Chong Li and we can only say that the itch their creativity has already exposed is being scratched with greater zeal.
Listening to Devils Teeth you can only think the band are a temptation of Lucifer, their music and records proving an infernal temptation leading to lust and verging on undesirable habits. The core of their commandingly individual sound is a fusion of garage rock, surf and psych punk but as their debut proved, its rock ‘n’ roll keen to push its devious character and sound and venture further the quartet now has with La leggenda di Chong Li. They have created an adventure of intimation and imagination which is bred in the cinematic exploits of Hong Kong and the dust clad romanticism of spaghetti westerns but again embracing much more to its theatre.
La leggenda di Chong Li presents a rock operetta inspired by the character Chong Li from the martial arts film Bloodsport and it would not be wrong to say that the foursome of vocalist/guitarist Jon Hanusa (aka Jonny Glissando), vocalist/bassist Eric Arsnow – (Erico Bello), drummer Chuck Engel (aka Chazz Bolognese) and saxophonist Caleb Westphal (aka il Snaggletoots) were working away under the skin within the first shimmer of album opener She Speaks To Coyotes. A caress of guitar stroked swift attention, the keen shuffle of rhythms and warm vocal tempting enriching the coaxing as surf waves wash over like a swarthy summer tide. It is a mesmeric and warmly haunting affair, a prelude and first lapping of the captivation to follow.
The following pt. I – Chong Li rises within a melodic haze, a guitar weaving a tempting invitation before sparking a rhythmic and sonic adventure which soon infests body and imagination. Musical drama aligns to that of the unfolding story, a Morricone spiced humidity further heated by the flames of sax, soon joined by the additional heat of Andrew Eshbaugh’s trumpet, which escalate the already firm grip of the Tarantino/Shaw Brothers hued manipulation.
The following Psychopath is immediate intrigue and danger, the bass almost sneaking through ears; keeping to the shadows as the swoop of guitar light sweeps the landscape. As its predecessor, it is a track which ignites the weaving of thoughts and compelled attention of ears, the subsequent draw of vocals and brass with escalating intensity only thickening the richness of suggestion laying the path to the rousing canter of Ride of the Devils Teeth. Vocals and rhythms instantly grip the body in rock ‘n’ roll tenacity, its excitable almost feral instincts raised in garage punk style theatre and keenly aligning to the seven samurai like grit and aggression which fuels the escapade. Even within the glorious theatre and enterprise cast by all songs, it is easily for us the album’s pinnacle in its mountainous success.
The funereal march of pt. II – Death of Chong Li incites the imagination as powerfully as its slow stroll commands matching movement, the track a sombre yet sonically glowing tempting which aligns delicious melodic intoxication to funebrial melancholy before pt. III – Son of Chong Li emerges to wreak contagion on the listener and revenge within the tale. There is a great Mariachi El Bronx meets Rocket From the Crypt meets The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster texture to the song’s character and sound, just one potent essence creating its own esurient spaghetti rock irritability and furore.
The closing beguilement of pt. IV – Shadows of Chong Li brings the release to an enthralling end, the song another which offers seduction and peril hand in hand as it sonically woos the senses. Like that scene in the movies when the protagonist rides off into the sunset, the track leaves the imagination in a twilight zone of captivation and the album a lingering influence quickly orchestrating a needy press of that play button.
There will be few albums like La leggenda di Chong Li this year and few pleasures as rich and addictive; dare to bear your imagination to the Devils Teeth?
La leggenda di Chong Li is out now via Triple Eye Industries; available digitally and on CD and Ltd Ed cassette @ https://devilsteeth.bandcamp.com/album/la-leggenda-di-chong-li
Pete RingMaster 05/04/2021
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