Thursday 16 October 2014

Black Tar Prophet - Deafen (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/4/2014
Label: Domestic Genocide Records

‘Deafen’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

1. Dethroned
2. Judgment Whore
3. Bottom Feeder
4. Ring of Buzzards
5. Back on the Nod
6. Stoned to Death
7. Hypomania
8. Let the Cold Winds Blow
9. Condemned


BLACK TAR PROPHET was spawned in 2011 in Nashville by Swinehart, then on drums, and former guitarist Mark Owen with a simple desire to record low quality demos of heavy riffs in Greg’s living room. The pair eventually left the living room jam sessions and recorded their debut LP, Note To Nod. Tracked and mastered in Swinehart’s shed, the record features one gargantuan forty-two-minute track of girthy riffs, feedback and hostility. Following a short live excursion, Owen fled the band for personal reasons. Swinehart moved to bass and recruited drummer Erik Dever. Their enormous volume efforts proved effective and in 2012 the band joined forces with Atlanta sludge bringers, Crawl, for a split CD. The following year the band performed upwards of sixty shows throughout the Southern and Midwest regions, deafening unsuspecting ears one decibel at a time. In 2014, no one is safe.

The Band:

Greg Swineheart | Bass
Erik Dever | Drums


Let’s start this review by stating that I never believed it was possible for a 2 person group to create a truly coherent piece of rock music, let alone an entire album’s worth.  I always thought that at a minimum, you had to have drums, bass and a lead guitar.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Sure I have heard The White Stripes, but their music didn’t really grab me in any way.  But having heard much talk about how great a particular 2-piece band was back in 2009, I checked out Black Cobra’s ‘Chronomega’ LP and was completely blown away by the wall of sound they created.  Had someone said to me this band consisted of 3 or more members without knowing anything about them, I’d have no trouble believing it.  Since then, I began to give duos a closer look, and I’m glad I did. 

Fast-forward a few years to the present, and while searching for new music online, I came across Nashville, Tennessee’s Black Tar Prophet, an instrumental 2-piece band consisting of Greg Swinehart on bass guitar and Erik Dever on drums.  Intrigued by their band name, I listened to a few tracks from their debut LP ‘Deafen’ and immediately acquired everything they had put out.  These guys hit HARD, and it’s some dark and heavy stuff.  That’s exactly what I was looking for, and they delivered in spades. 

‘Deafen’ is 9 tracks of pure downtuned, fuzzed-out sludge fury.  There isn’t a bad track on here or anything that I would consider ‘filler.’  The album starts off strong and does not let up.  Each song is just as heavy as the last. 

Now the tone of Greg’s bass doesn’t change all that much throughout ‘Deafen,’ but it doesn’t have to. In less capable hands that may have been a problem, but here it works well. It’s all about the riffs and believe me, they are massive.  As in “hit you over the fucking head with a sledge hammer” massive. 

Now I can’t forget Erik’s drumming.  It has a HUGE sound on ‘Deafen’ and to me, the mix is perfect.  The drum sound is HEAVY, and that is a definite plus.  Some bands who deal in this style of music sometimes seem to forget they even have a drummer, with a cymbal crash here and there and not more than 3 seconds of continuous drumming at a time.  Often the guitar or in the case the bass can often take all of the spotlight and sometimes, that doesn’t work for me.  Thankfully that isn’t the case with Black Tar Prophet, as the drums play just as an important role as the bass and are as much in the forefront.

‘Deafen’ is an incredible album and I have listened to it several times from beginning to end. I consider this one my best finds of 2014, and definitely rank this in my top 5 albums of the year.  I have been converted into a Black Tar Prophet “disciple,” and if you take this album for a spin, I’m sure you will be to.

Words by: Mike Lainez

You can pick up a copy here

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