The follow-up to Babylon Whores' superb King Fear record came with the requisite stigma attached: How can the band follow up its masterpiece, which exhibited a near-perfect balance of hooks, heaviness, humor, musicianship, and fascinating lyrical excursions? Well, the Whores answered by sticking to their guns with Death of the West, which, in comparison, is thicker, denser, noisier, and less eager to please than its predecessor. When opening track "Life Fades Away" kicks in with a mighty, muscular drumbeat encasing a weighty groove, what's most evident is the live-sounding production; noisy cymbals, gut-punch bass drums, and gravel-crunch guitars bleed through the microphones, while Ike Vil croons by turns coolly and hysterically -- all exhibiting the chaotic framework for the entropic themes the album title implies. And so "Hell Abloom," "Lucibel," and "Death in Prague" gallop out of the gates, dark, dank, melodic mid-tempo rockers all, clopping down muddy paths like black horses to crumbling castles, while the 7:24 of "Mother of Serpents" shudders along like an epic tank, crammed with buried-vocal/exploding riff dynamics -- a truly foreboding, beautiful-but-ugly occult-mythology-soaked tale of gloom 'n' doom. Standouts include "Dating With Witchcraft," the album's most straightforward and up-tempo cut, all Danzig bombast and Type O Negative-with-a-lit-degree humor, recalling King Fear's catchier tracks, and "A Pale Horse Against Time," a gargantuan beast towing Middle Eastern-flavored melodies and guitar warbles, the song ending the record with prophetic chanting, an apocalyptic fist snuffing the flame of order and reason. And while Death of the West's duration is but 45 minutes -- eight songs, the final track being an instrumental piece -- it's packed with frightening, fascinating minutiae, subtle melodies wedged into all the cracks and crevices. And Vil is a lyrical brain surgeon when compared to his peers' battleaxe wieldings, his words significantly dire, but delivered with a sharp elbow nudge, jammed with sardonic wit and intelligent occultist themes; he's rivaled by no one else in the metal underground (save possibly for Dani Filth). As Babylon Whores continue to develop their "death rock" craft, the more the music worms its way into your skull and nests, demanding multiple spins, the result being the listener's addiction to the music's enlightenment or damnation -- take your pick. Either way, you can't go wrong.
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