Music Theories Recordings [Release date 08.12.17]
‘Doom Side Of The Moon’ celebrates 50 years of Pink Floyd by re-imagining a heavier version of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. It’s an attempt to get inside the textural richness of Pink Floyd’s original sonic palate, while adding a new heavy-duty musical vision.
It’s brave and original brave idea, but one fraught with difficulties.
After all, you are more likely to cop criticism than the opposite when you tinker with a masterpiece.
The band wisely don’t change the structures too much, but place the emphasis on updating the electronics and add a voluminous sound that sometimes literally amplifies the original album’s moods.
But there’s a bigger problem to overcome too, which is simply that of context. The one thing any change to the original has to achieve, is to make an emotional, musical and in this case, intellectual connection with a ground breaking conceptual record that dealt with the human psyche.
In terms of the production alone, engineer Alan Parsons made great use of multi-tracking, and incorporated new synth and electronic sounds, while Roger Waters’s lyrical meaning tapped into whole notion of a life cycle.
Above all, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ was a suite of music that stands as whole, and has embraced a timeless appeal.
So where does that leave Doom? On the upside, this re-appraisal brings the electronic elements of the original work up to date, while drummer Santiago Vela III is in his element with a mix of expansive drum patterns, post industrial bombast and plenty of cymbal splashes.
The Sword’s guitarist Kyle Shutt applies thick layers of feedback, vibrato and all manner of drone sounds, especially on the industrial heaviness of ‘On The Run’ and the segued intro of ‘Time.’
It’s on tracks like the latter, that the listener either buys into the heavier concept or not. The huge drums, fragmented electronics and drones give way to big power chords that are well suited to the heavier arrangement and a big wall of sound with portentous feedback and a gritty sax line.
It’s an interesting take on the original, but aside from the initial thunderous drum break, the track lacks the push of the original and settles in a heavier wall of fuzz guitar and layered sounds.
Metal heads will doubtless love the headbanging moments, but despite some innovative touches there isn’t anything new being offered here, except the thickening density of portentous sounds.
At times the new arrangements – especially the big riffs – make a retro connection with the early 70′s, while the big wall of sound and incredible drums on ‘Money’ brings the project up to date.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of the album is the way that it fails to make the most of a potentially big resolution on Richard Wright’s ‘The Great Gig In the Sky’.
‘Doom’ substitutes the original Clare Troy faux operatic part with a grainy sax into a nightmarish crescendo and a Beatles ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy’) style perfunctory finish.
You could argue it’s on this track that they add their own signature sound, but if asked the question, does it add to the original, you’d have to answer that it sounds like an innovative audio sketch rather than having the depth and emotional charge of the orginal.
Arguably the band’s most significant contribution comes on the following track ‘Money’. The original languid blues work out is given a power riff makeover with crashing cymbals and a manic urgency, as Shutt’s heavy-duty guitar work dominates the blues nuance.
It’s an inventive arrangement, but doesn’t emulate the original. The riff-driven stuff sounds very retro, before a sudden time change and a fleeting guitar driven wall of sound, punctuated by organ flurries over a galloping rhythm section. The band belatedly heads back into the groove – such as it is – and settles for a head banging wall of sound.
This arrangement is arguably the closest we get to Doom Side Of The Moon’s own style. They add some lovely psychedelic guitar on ‘Us & Them ‘, as part of an audio collage that adds new layers to essentially the same arrangement as the original.
As with the album as a whole, the best bits are those unexpected little vignettes or moments when the band adds it’s own ideas. And so it is on ‘Any Colour You Like’, which replaces the original languid synth and clean toned guitar part with some frenetic wah-wah jamming.
It works surprisingly well and ushers in a fresh dynamic, complete with more fuzz guitar and crashing cymbals.
‘Brain Damage’ also gets an industrial metal treatment, with crashing percussion and weathered vocals, while the harmony vocals get off to a stodgy start before recovering in time to lever us into a hard rock finish.
The closing ‘Eclipse’ goes for the throat, as drummer Santiago Vela III and guitarist Shutt power the band towards a potentially big resolution, which they don’t quite nail, despite plenty of big chords and lots more buster.
And therein lies the problem. While ‘Doom Side Of The Moon’ partly aims to update the original Floyd album by adding innovative embellishments and a heavier feel, the band sometimes loses sight of the bigger picture. The irony is of course, that the concept of a unified whole was very thing that elevated the original ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ from being a series of disparate but interesting tracks, into a unique album. ***
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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