King dude is the fucking man. The solo project of TJ Cowgill, frontman for Seattle death metal outfits Book of Black Earth and Cross, as well as the owner and designer of the Actual Pain clothes line, King Dude is a mix of apocalyptic blues and American folk music steeped in occult imagery and paganism. On his third and latest album, Burning Daylight, the Dude shows off some new tricks while staying true to his dark folk roots.
Perhaps the biggest strength of Burning Daylight is its variety. Each song is different than the next, and while they all share a similar tone, the delivery is varied. Album opener ‘Holy Land’ barrels down on you like a steam engine from Hell with reverberating drums, rumbling baritone vocals, and ghostly guitar melodies. The following track ‘Barbara Anne’ is a dark serenade driven by acoustic guitar chords and lyrics that walk the line between devotion and obsession. “I’m Cold” sounds like the theme song of a character from a Cormac McCarthy novel, replete with snarling growls and a wall of percussion. Be it a change in guitar tone, vocal delivery, or simply a shift of time signature, these differences in style between each track not only show off Cowgill’s abilities as a songwriter, but prevent the monotony or “sameyness” that can often plague neofolk music.
Despite songs making allusions to Lucifer, Jesus, death, and obscure rituals, King Dude’s use of occult imagery seems to be more a vessel for his message than the message itself. On almost every track, Burning Daylight deals with love and loss. Like a love-sick killer, King Dude reassures there is no end to his affection the while crooning “I’ll shoot that man in the head if you asked me to, Barbara Anne,” on ‘Barbara Anne’; ‘I Know Your Mine’ deals with a Hurst-driving daredevil convinced he has the love of a woman; and despite the relatively up-beat and cheerful tune of ‘Lorraine,’ there’s a sinister tone to Cowgill’s vocal delivery and heartbroken lyrics. Never does this formula come off as awkward or cheesy; in fact, these demented love songs work quite well and give the already varied music even more emotional depth and texture.
Burning Daylightis not without fault; on a few songs the mixing is overpowered by some of the post-production effects, especially on the drumming and vocals. While this never impeded my enjoyment of the album, it was still enough for me to notice more than once. A few of the tracks also are a bit short, feeling more like interludes than fully-explored ideas. Nonetheless, I found the post-apocalyptic atmosphere, deep voice, and love-sick musings of King Dude to be both bleak and beautiful. Burning Daylight is most certainly not an album you want to overlook.
Posted: Sat 17 November 2012