Monday 1 June 2015

Death Alley - 'Black Magick Boogieland' (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 19/05/2015
Label: Tee Pee Records

‘Black Magick Boogieland’ CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Over Under
2. Black Magick Boogieland
3. Bewildered Eyes
4. The Fever
5. Golden Fields Of Love
6. Stalk Eyed
7. Dead Mans Bones
8. Supernatural Predator


Once upon a time, it was said that if you couldn’t find a partner you should grab a wooden chair. At the time, the swinging of hips to a beat was a thing of the Devil – not necessarily someone that everybody was down with. A wooden chair was therefore a real substitute. In 2015, however, it seems that more and more people are down with the Devil, so there’s more often a partner around to dance with than a wooden chair. Death Alley plays to that on their debut, an album that is so infectious that people from far and wide will be lining up to get down. This is their gift to you. The chicks will dig their 70’s swagger, the dudes their 80’s punk, and their modern classicism speaks to the masses. So come along and let us take a dive into their Tee Pee debut, “Black Magick Boogieland.”

What springs to mind the most in each of these eight songs – which fit neatly onto Halloween-orange vinyl – is how busy the guitars are. Death Alley riffs, sure, but the moments of restless picking bring to mind our bearded friends in ZZ Top. But rather than raising the temperatures by slowing things down to bring bodies closer together, drummer Ming Boyer sits in the back, shaking out an electric shuffle, sending shock waves through the floor and up through the feet of those who came to boogie. Album opener “Over Under” is a prime example of this, but its showcased best in the title track. Here, Boyer fills out every empty space and challenges guitarist Oeds Beydals to keep up with his fills, rather than the other way around. There’s a sleazy guitar solo that leaves as fast as it came in – after all, Beydals is running behind Boyer – but the roles reverse within the second guitar solo, a moment that shines a light on the band’s lack of pretence.

If you’re more into the riff side of things, there’s plenty of that, too. “Bewildered Eyes,” for example, is in mind, body, and soul a riff-driven gas guzzler that brings to mind some of our SoCal friends. It’s two and a half minute run time is a tip of the hat to Death Alley’s punk rock guilt, which pops up again in the follow up, “The Fever,” which would have played out just as well had it been The Hellacopters’s swan song. “Golden Fields of Love,” despite its tendency to flirt with ballad-territory, will leave your fingers sticky if you touch it, and had the jam at the end of the song been a person, it would be clad in a sleeveless denim jacket covered in Thin Lizzy patches and the like. It may not be the album’s highlight, but it’s certainly a fancy way to close out Side A.

Side B is home to “Black Magick Boogieland’s” longer cuts. “Stalk Eyed” comes by with more of that ZZ Top shuffle coupled with twin guitars. After a tasty interlude, the intensity gets taken down a notch as the band falls into a chant-like mantra. Then “Dead Man’s Bones” flies around the corner, screeching tires and all, and joins in on the festivities. Despite its four minute sprint, it’s more punk than anything – in speed, not sound levels – and again, the guitars wildly battle the drums for a place in the sun.

Perhaps when you read that “Black Magick Boogieland” only had eight songs – of which two have so far been labeled as short – you might have been disappointed. But fear not, the album’s closer, “Supernatural Predator,” does its damnedest to reach the thirteen minute mark and even features a guest vocalist in the form of Farida Lamouchi. This tune’s length straight up makes it the album’s stand-out track, because it provides the band ample opportunity to show off their chops. There are riffs the size of continents flying by; the vocals take full advantage of their role, and the band gels, jams, and jives. “Supernatural Predator” finishes off the album out on a high note and if you were still on the fence about coming out to Death Alley’s album release party at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on June 11, this little ditty just might be the final argument you needed.

Words by: Victor Van Ommen

‘Black Magick Boogieland’ is available here

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