Being of the ‘80s thrash generation, I was born a few years too late to experience the actual birth of metal first hand. As a result, I have had to seek out that old-school sound and those pioneers of what we now know as “metal.” Though it took me years to get over the fact that these bands aren’t “heavy” enough (I was a brainless twerp of a child), I have found that I spend a lot of time listening to these old classics since discovering them. You know, those bands that first fused psychedelic rock and ripping solos into basic, bluesy chops; resulting in humdingers like Captain Beyond’s Captain Beyond, Uriah Heep’s Demons and Wizards, Motörhead’s Overkill, and Blue Öyster Cult’s Agents of Fortune. Set the needle to any of these originals purchased from used record stores at two bucks a pop and I am set for life. “Proto-metal,” as some call it, lives in the ’60s and ‘70s, but every once in awhile a band comes along that captures that same old-school charm. While Ghost BC, In Solitude, and Trial relive the second phase of this sound (á la Mercyful Fate), Amsterdam’s Death Alley back up to those early conceptions of metal. So, if you’re an old fart and long for those days of psychedelic “cowbell rock,” Black Magick Boogieland may just be your ticket.
Following the demise of The Devil’s Blood, guitarist Oeds Beydals set out to punk-up proto-metal with some Lemmy leather and back-alley Amsterdam antics. Debut Black Magick Boogieland stays true to the proto-metal style but with an added flare of modernism. Opener “Over Under” and the title track are a good representations of the shenanigans about to ensue, with characteristic mild distortion, bassy pop, groovy riffs, and a bonus rough-around-the-edges vocal delivery full of brooding punk character. It’s a straight-up delivery that won’t knock you on your ass, but it feels familiar and – for many – nostalgic. This description can pretty much sum up Black Magick Boogieland in its entirety.
Of course, no album of this style would be complete without those rock-out-with-your-cock-out jammers in the form of the Motörhead-like “Fever” and and the Captain Beyond-meets-Cream “Golden Fields of Love.” These hard-rocking, head-knocking numbers are meant for the basement; where kids’ rebellions feed, and white-collars are replaced with leather and neckties are swapped for “fuck you” attitudes. The blues licks are stomping in the former and the psychedelia is abundant in the latter. All instruments are present and accounted for and the distortion is just cranked far enough beyond yesteryear that if old Dr. Johnny Fever ever possessed a copy of Black Magick Boogieland, he’d surely get canned.
Oh yeah. Remember my jab at the infamous percussive element known as the “cowbell?” Well, it’s here too. Check out “Stalk Eyed” for your cowbell fix before you head out to the garage in search of your warped copy of Agents of Fortune. Which, as you discover, has been used for years as a parking place for little Tommy’s bicycle. You have only yourself to blame, dude. From here, the catchiness and fun only continue with the foot-tapping, head-swaying, feel-good choruses of “Dead Man’s Bones” and closer “Supernatural Predator.” Along with a chorus that refuses to leave your skull, the twelve-minute closer stands out as the jam-session junky on the album. It’s bassy, spacey, and intoxicating with some midpoint atmospheres that feel like Pink Floyd, even if the delivery is not as expertly executed and the length makes it redundant and lacking memorability.
Bottom-line? These Dutch bastards know how to have a good time with a style only accessible via a time machine and they do a pretty damn good job of executing it. With that said, there really isn’t anything Black Magick Boogieland has to offer that hasn’t already been done by bands that not only laid the ground work years ago, but did it better. If anything I hope metalheads unfamiliar with the sound of yore will find Black Magick Boogieland a gateway drug to the past. For those with tight-fitting leather jackets that have had their share of “getting around,” perhaps Death Alley will give you that sense of familiarity and comfort that you lost the moment you got a real job. So, have a party and crank this up. And if anybody complains about the noise, beat the shit out of them [with a limited edition AMG Pet Rock™ – Steel Druhm].