Creature with the Atom Brain

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Transylvania Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

When your band's name derives from a 1955 cult movie about an ex-Nazi mad scientist and his atomic-powered zombies by way of a Roky Erickson song -- as does that of Belgian alternative rock group Creature with the Atom Brain -- there's no telling what strange kind of music will follow. And when the man occupying the producer's chair for your sophomore album, 2010's Transylvania, is Masters of Reality leader and sonic visionary Chris Goss (Queens of the Stone Age, Desert Sessions, etc., etc.), the possibilities are narrowed down only slightly -- anything could happen! Indeed, "quirky" is the only all-encompassing descriptive capable of covering all of the songs profiled here, which commingle so many music styles and so many eras in the long history of rock & roll that it takes a minute to recognize them for what they are. Taking them chronologically: the gentle nod and psychedelic overtones guiding "The Color of Sundown" and "Spinnin' the Black Hole" hark all the way back to the ‘60s acid tests; the shuffling austerity of opener "I Rise the Moon" and the pedal steel twanging "Something Is Wrong" speak of ‘70s roots music and Americana; while the foreboding power chords of the title track and "Make Noise" put ‘90s grunge squarely into the mix. If this curious diversity is starting to sound familiar to some, it's because there are definitely many parallels between Creature with the Atom Brain and Masters of Reality, and Goss' influence becomes even more pronounced once Queens of the Stone Age elements creep into the brooding wails of "The Lonesome Whistle" and the quietly unsettling "Lonely Night," featuring none other than Mark Lanegan on vocals. Nevertheless, as the album wears on, only its predominantly lazy tempo emerges as a possible Achilles heel, particularly when exposed by less than fully engaging tracks like the overlong "Darker than a Dungeon" (which finally, barely comes to life during its guitar solo) and the aptly named "Sound of Confusion" (a blatant Roky Erickson homage). Otherwise, Transylvania is a consistently intriguing LP, on a level with its creators' unusual moniker, and is sure to seduce connoisseurs of rare sonic vintages while flying way over the heads of the public at large.

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