If Bethlem Royal Hospital had a house band at the time of its notoriously infamous period when it was better named as Bedlam, Bastards Of Fate would have fitted the role like a glove. The Roanoke, Virginia hailing outfit create a sound and incitement to which a description of lunacy is inevitable and inescapable yet, as evidenced in their new album Suck The Light Out, it is a skilfully woven and creatively deceptive aberration which borders on genius; a dementia ridden habitude obviously.
There are few bands which truly offer an adventure for mind and ears but Bastards Of Fate go even further; challenging and testing the listener, almost examining their tolerance and their psyche for unsettling creative behaviour but with something which is rich unrelenting fun. Though our introduction to the band thanks to our bud Mike at Crashing Through, the well-received releases of their previous two albums suggests the quintet has been sharing striking and daring proposals for a while, most likely from the first emerging breath in 2012 as a solo project for frontman Doug Cheatwood. Without experiencing either 2012’s Who’s A Fuzzy Buddy? or Vampires are Real and Palpable two years later, it is still easy to say that Bastards Of Fate have hit a new plateau in sound and imagination, as well as mania such the might of Suck The Light Out.
From its first breath the album has claws in the imagination, opener Freemasons heralding its arrival with the ringing of bells recorded at a Cardiff church during a UK tour. Swiftly their call is smothered in darker off-kilter hues; a breeze evolving into a quirky theatre of sound with an air of hallucination and as suggestively clockwork as it is nursery. Vocals led by Cheatwood are just as eclectic settling into a controlled incitement with a scent of Bill Nelson’s Red Noise to it, Cheatwood indeed not for the last time with a touch of that band’s founder to his delivery. Across its tempestuous flank, the song shows irritability in it rock ‘n roll, the guitar of Benji Pugh mischievously colluding with the keys of Camellia Delk for cheerier temptation while the constant nagging of bass from Jason Wellz and Doug Shelor’s swinging beats drive the raw aggressive drama boiling up in it all, an agitation ebbing and flowing with mercurial energy as 12 Stone Toddler like dynamics further colour the fevered affair.
The following Portal to Hell is creative mayhem from the first second, rhythms jabbing with relish as Cheatwood announces his throaty demon. Soon a muggy start, it subsequently clears as a melody sizzles, it in turn relaxing as madness boldly simmers before infesting the song’s eruption with a legion of styles and flavours at its merciless fingertips. Fondling the senses and thoughts with pleasure igniting insanity and psychosis loaded unpredictability, like Pere Ubu on LSD, the track is unfathomable glory. Again the former Be Bop Deluxe frontman in his latter solo era is reminded of at times but only in something so unique to Bastards Of Fate it too is hard to believe.
To be honest numerous artists are nudged into suggestion across Suck The Light Out but none are truly accurate clues to the beautiful absurdness and imagination bursting fun on offer, next up Dark Matter pushing XTC and The Residents as possible references yet neither really fitting the maze of metal and heavy rock growling upon the song’s indie and pop sculpted landscape, a pasture in a constant flux of broken normality.
Through the relatively stable stroll of Book of Lies, though a romp with volatility in every element from tenacious rhythms and synth spun poetic webbing to melodic suggestion and vocal paranoia laced reflection, and the vocal lamentation of Misanthropy, bewitchment and confusion collude in a lustful embrace of the continuing diversity and irrational lure of Suck The Light Out. All releases need numerous listens to truly get to grips with thoughts and emotions on what they offer and there is no doubt that this album needs it more than most with the pair of songs alone showing the increasing rewards to be gained.
From the captivation of Girlfren with its crystalline melodies and screwy charm to the slow funk swing of the rhythmically tribal and vocally weird Caligula, ears and pleasure are only further inflamed, the latter and our favourite track, a salaciously deranged waltz. Its majestic prowess and mental manipulation is matched by that of Supercollider, a frenzy of sound and energy bursting from calm if warped crooning like a dangerously corrupted Pryapisme; punk and psych rock just two flavours in the frantic dementia.
Unicorns in Love is instinctive Bastards of Fate twisted rock ‘n’ roll with Waste My Time backing up its raw captivation with its hazy hug of melody spun, scuzz kissed, Fleetwood Mac spiced beauty with Delk taking vocal lead; her delicious tones as mouth-watering as the sounds caressing her harmonic presence.
The album is closed by Meatstar, a celestial dirt ball of progressive and melodic intrigue again tempting comparisons but evading all with its uncompromising invention in a brewing cacophony of sonic drama and imagination driven refreshment. It quite simply sums up the album, something aggressively individual and hungrily entertaining not forgetting deliriously deranged.
Suck The Light Out is, as Bastards Of Fate, indeed Bedlam and simply one of the most striking and uncomfortably fun propositions in recent years.
Suck The Light Out is available now digitally and on vinyl through HHBTM Records from most online stores with a special limited vinyl edition including a bonus LP of alternate tracks through http://hhbtm.com/
Pete RingMaster 25/03/2017
Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright