Heavy Deavy Skull Lover

The Warlocks

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Heavy Deavy Skull Lover Review

by Jason Lymangrover

After losing their deal with Mute Records because of Surgery's initial lack of success, the West Coast neo-psych stoner rockers' long, strange trip was nearly at an end. Fortunately, longtime allies Brian Jonestown Massacre came through for the guys, encouraging their label, Tee Pee Records, to add the Warlocks to its roster. Looser than their prior label, their new home enabled the Warlocks to record Heavy Deavy Skull Lover at their leisure under the guidance of Rod Cervera, who recorded their first record. As on each of their other albums, new territories are explored and musical influences have changed significantly. There are still hints of Spacemen 3 and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but now the focus of the project is gloomy shoegaze that conjures up images of the Swirlies on bad brown acid. Part of the reason for this is that the band has been whittled down to half of its size, and now the power dual-drummer setup is gone. Where they were once thunderous, now they sound fragile. Also, trippiness has replaced melody, and when eight songs are elongated for nearly 60 minutes, it can seem like an eternity. "The Valley of Death" disappears into "Moving Mountains," which stretches out over ten minutes with several head-fakes and suggested endings, eventually building to a fiery climax that results in the album's peak moment and prettiest song, "So Paranoid," a creamy mock-Jesus and Mary Chain swirl. If only the entire album were this strong. At times, druggy pretension saturates the concept, and the band favors overly artistic choices like the inclusion of "Interlude in Reverse," a song that didn't sound proper in its original state, so it's played backwards. Sorting through the rambling murk can seem like an unreasonable chore for the listener, but the bleak, angry guitar buzzsaws can make those forgiving moments of relief that much more rewarding. The moment at just past the three-minute mark of "Slip Beneath," when the vocals finally bleed into the foreground, is sheer exquisiteness, but the jarring vehemence of the song directly after may make you reach for the fast-forward button. As uneven as the experience is, the album probably makes most sense in its entirety, but listening straight through can be an exercise in endurance. You'll only try this once or twice, though. After that, you'll be searching through to find your favorites.

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