EXT. A RAINY URBAN ALLEY NIGHT
Thunder crashes and illuminates the face of an anxious man who appears to be in his mid-20s. He’s soaked from the relentless rain and seems to be looking for an address. Finding the right one, he bangs on the old wooden door. The door gives way and creaks open. He steps inside and it slams behind him, the sound of the storm replaced by the sound of rats scurrying. In the darkness he encounters (a monster? a ghost? a goblin?) that makes a terrifying growl. The sounds of the man scampering away indicate abject terror — and a likely loss of continence.
The man recovers himself and hears a pipe organ playing behind the door at the end of the hall. Investigating, he opens the door, the music grows louder and we find ourselves in…
INT. MAD SCIENTIST LAB NIGHT
The soundstage shenanigans of the opening track leave us in that mad sonic scientist’s lab where our pain- and guilt-ridden hero is told in “Rust Golem” that, “Slings and rocks that bruise your skin/ That’s where we begin.” As the sideshow-like bouncing organ and lyrics whispered a la Radiohead’s Thom Yorke both grow in intensity, the transformation from timidity and uncertainty to full-out rage is complete (“Lift your eyes/ Watch me burn the skies,” says our newly transformed hero.) We’re never quite sure who the source of the guilt and shame is, but a mother or an ex is a good guess. One thing is certain: you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the thing that emerges from the lab at the end of the song, with full electronic and organic instrumentation blazing from its metal-edged mouth.
The next track on the album, “Who’s There?”, is a welcome relief from “Rust Golem”‘s growling synth and crashing smashing drums. It’s got a shuffling rhythm and Southwestern-style guitar playing that reminds you of riding through a bleak desert landscape on a moonless night. It’s the album’s most catchy track, evoking shades of Calexico and Giant Giant Sand.
SUPERHORRORCASTLELAND isn’t quite a concept album, but it feels like one. It’s the soundtrack to a movie yet to be written: one that explores the underbelly of human emotions and the way in which our ghosts can twist us into less-than-human goblins. “Fleshcraft / The Transfiguration”, the album’s penultimate song, is a creepy (in a good way) composition that starts with a big electric guitar melody a la The Heavy, builds to an off-the-rails crescendo of pure rock raucousness, then deposits us in a barren wind-swept sonic scape with a loping bassline as our only companion.
But we do get a brief break from the back alleys and underground dungeons with “Look At The Clouds”, a Vampire Weekend-esque “love” song where lead singer DiMichele channels his inner Bowie on lyrics like, “Yeah, baby, let’s fuck the system/ Dream big and go, go!” It’s a track that would be perfect in a sequel to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, keeping in line with the theme of the rest of the record.
SUPERHORRORCASTLELAND is so cinematic that it feels like something you watch — on an old black and white TV in a motel room with a mysterious stain on the wall — as much as listen to. Its mix of big, messy, organic Muse-like rock riffs stitched together with old-school sci-fi synth and sharp-edged lyrics makes it a Frankenstein’s monster of an album. And we all like to root for the monster, right?
Ghost & Goblin – SUPERHORRORCASTLELAND Full Album Stream