People Like You Records
If memory serves correct, Blitzkid was the first band to win me over to punk’s undead cousin, the horror genre. As someone who once spent weekend evenings watching whatever cheesy 80’s horror films the local sifi channel was playing (check out Brainscan), I completely fell for the trio’s 2006 croon-heavy masterpiece, Five Cellars Below. In essence Bliktzkid taught me that with the right balance of humour and tongue-in-cheek gore, it’s easy to listen to the soundtrack to that Friday night basement b-side movie marathon any night of the week.
I listened to Five Cellars Below regularly for over a year, or at least until another horror fixation filled the void – and then I waited. And waited. And waited. Whenever I checked in, the Blitzkid website was either under construction or the band was re-recording their back catalogue (which might have been exciting had I not already exhausted their original three albums). It actually took five years of vague promises and seemingly random updates for the band to get their act together, but finally the band crawled from what could have become their final resting place, in the span of a couple months announcing and unleashing their fifth studio album upon an unsuspecting world.
Apparitional features the band’s newest lineup, and succeeds on the strength of reconciling old and new. Down to a single founding member (guitarist/vocalist TB Monstrosity parted ways amicably in early 2011), Argyle Ghoulsby, carries the album along with drummer Ricko and newcomer Nathan Bane. Ghoulsby has always been the true voice of Blitzkid – a “clean” singer with a “tender” voice in the vein of Danzig era Misfits – so while the loss isn’t terribly transformative, the trio seems to have made a conscious effort counterbalance Ghoulsby with elements reminiscent of TB’s rawness. For the most part the strategy works.
I’ve always loved beautifully horrific tracks like Five Cellars Bellow’s “Mary And The Storm” that play entirely from soft atmospheric cues, but an entire album as such and their core fan base might lose interest. Consequently, the group reintroduces much of the grit from their Let Flowers Die and Trace Of A Stranger days in the form of steady tempos and grittier production. As someone who lived for the slick presentation of Five Cellars Bellow, I can safely say the change is for the best.
At its core, Apparitional is chalk full of woah heavy harmonies and rich layered sound. Album opener “Head Over Hills” might unravel with the distant cries of “thunder struck me” and end with seizure inducing bursts of power drumming, but Ghoulsby’s careful dark croon resonates into every musical crevice like moonlight floods every haunting inch of a forest floor. The beat moves quick, but the harmonies stick tight – Bad Religion being a good, albeit thematically inappropriate, reference point. Here Blitzkid distances themselves from the likes of Nim Vind (although a few tracks like “Mr. Sardonicus” take a slight doo wop drive-in feel) and sides more with little known horror act The Rosedales. Other standouts include “Cedar Bluff,” “The Perfect Sleep,” and the sound effect heavy “Bat Whispers.”
But they’re also not frightened to venture from their comfort zone. The best example being “Casque Of Amontillado,” which includes a curious rock ‘n roll and saxophone pairing (think Kings Of Nuthin’) placed thirteen tracks in that eliminates any sense of exhaustion that might be expected of a fifteen song outing.
Another continued strength is expanding their horror themes beyond face value. “The Awakening” revolves around the power of individualism with lines like “you cannot be tamed by conventional ways,” referring to an “awakening” self-consciousness. Likewise, “Wretched” harks on being “forgotten, left for dead” to the pleasure of another – an obvious parallel for emotional trauma. Even the morgue romance “Jane Doe #9” has its roots in ideas of classic admiration from afar – a romance that could have been but will never advance beyond a thought.
I’ll admit, when track sixteen played its course, I couldn’t help but miss the hauntingly delicate frame of the aforementioned “Mary And The Storm.” But before I had time to properly mourn the loss of a guilty pleasure, the soft strokes of piano keys floated in like a clouding mist through a damp cemetery. Blitzkid closes the disc by returning to “Head Over Hills” in the form of a piano laced hidden track. It was exactly the pick-me-up I needed to conclude the outing on a high note.
As someone who has been waiting for Apparitional since first being introduced to Blitzkid, I can safely say that the band delivers exactly what I was looking for: good clean horror punk with plenty of personality. It’s true, the band plays it safe and sticks to their strengths, but at the same time Blitzkid has never truly had a defining work, so Apparitional is long overdue and welcomed without question. But as with any solid work it also hints at future growth, which is tough to come by in a genre so riddled with clichés.