It has been four years since the release of Budos Band III, an album that signaled that the group had taken the funky Afrobeat-meets-vintage horn-driven R&B sound as far as it could go. They incorporated new sounds into its mix: Middle Eastern modes, Latin rhythms, a touch of psych, and even Ethiopian jazz. That said, Burnt Offering is a whole new thing, developed as always with an ear firmly planted in the past: just take a look at the mysterious magus on the cover. This music is rooted in late psychedelia, soundtracks, funk, and sword and sorcery metal à la Black Sabbath and Pentagram. This date feels more like a whole group vibe than anything they've previously recorded. Guitarist Thomas Brenneck produced the album (as opposed to Daptone' Gabriel Roth) and it was cut live to tape with effects added immediately thereafter. The end result sounds like it came straight out of a fully loaded bong. The horn chart on "The Sticks" accents baritone saxophones and strident trumpets amid careening organ, frantic snare breaks, and mad fuzz guitar. Vamps evolve toward more intricate melodies which explode and fade at the tune's most intense point. "Aphasia" digs deep into a slow, heavy, Pentagram-esque riff, as a ghostly Farfisa and squalling guitar ride atop processional drums. When the horns enter, the music changes focus but never abandons its theme. "Black Hills" and Tomahawk Turn" are more overt explorations into soundtrack terrain, but with experimental textures, surprising melodic twists, and dynamic juxtapositions. The title track has an angular Sabbath-esque intro (à la Master of Reality), via striated horn harmonics underscored by a nasty distorted guitar -- that crosses metal with psychedelic surf -- a pummeling bassline and a careening tenor saxophone solo. Reverb is everywhere, but the live feel is unshakable. "Magus Mountain" is far more funky than anything else here thanks to an abundance of breakbeats. The groove is manic as Afrobeat cadences are contrasted with massive, frenetic guitar vamps. Burnt Offering is aptly yet somewhat misleadingly titled. While the sounds and vibe exotically reflect the more brain-baked hedonistic and dark spiritual indulgences of the '70s, the music is actually more adventurous and sophisticated than anything Budos Band has ever attempted. While the album's roots are deeply embedded in the past, the band has never sounded more present tense.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek