Vampire Circus

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Vampire Circus Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

Recorded in fall 2004, Earthride's second vintage of full-bodied, album-length doom, Vampire Circus, was left to ferment for almost two years before finally being bottled for release in spring 2006, through Southern Lord. Luckily, this inexplicably long wait did not result in spoiled goods, thanks to a visceral, perceptibly "live in the studio" production attained by Corrosion of Conformity bassist Mike Dean, which renders these hulking, at times almost stomach-cramping, song-behemoths all the more punishing. Indeed, never has a wah-wah pedal summoned such malevolent sounds of slow-mounting doom as those cranked out by guitarist Kyle VanSteinburg on opener "Fighting the Devils Inside You," and these, in turn, lay down a suitably dismal foundation for Dave Sherman's crusty-throated ramblings (Lemmy-esque, to those in the know) about "unclean spirits" and "goats of Mendes." Amazingly, follow-up dirges such as "Understand," "Loss," and the title track creep on by with even greater commitment to sloth, bassist Rob Hampshire's four strings sounding so loose you can almost see them scraping the floor, while Eric Little's drums tow the line with only rare, momentary gallops confirming his pulse. Fans who first tuned into Earthride way back in 2001 because of the rumbling, road-hogging anthem that gave them their name will have to wait until this album's second half, where a trio of piston-pumping numbers in "God's Own Medicine," "For Wrath and Ruin," and "In the World I Live" reside. And those looking for a novel touch to Earthride's austere sounds will find it in the organ flourishes adorning "Swamp Witch" and "Dirt Nap," courtesy of Clutch collaborator Mick Schauer. Just don't expect their warming emanations to have much of an effect on Sherman's terminally depressing lyrics -- e.g. on the song last mentioned: "The world is a black hole; void; nothing; empty; and dead" -- yikes! Clearly, such uncompromising qualities leave little doubt as to Earthride's utter disdain for commercial gain or artifice in the conjuring of Vampire Circus, and result in an album that makes most of their Maryland doom community peers sound as chart-ready as Def Leppard by comparison.

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