In the royal chamber of overrated albums, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon sits atop a burnished throne that has cradled its posterior for many decades. I’ve tried countless times to love DSotM, bouncing between the CD, the SACD remaster, and an 180g vinyl pressing in desperation to discover what it is about this album that has resonated with so many people. Alas, illumination eluded me, and while I found portions of the record appealing, I struggled to generate more than a shrug when consuming the album as a whole. Not everyone shares my ambivalence, least of all Kyle Shutt, who has decided to honor the 50 year anniversary of DSoTM with the self-titled Doom Side of the Moon. Shutt draws a steady pay check as the guitarist for The Sword, another band guilty of receiving effusive praise by an over–enthusiastic press, so it’s no surprise that doom’s indolent chords are the weapon of choice on the record. Still, the idea of a metal band adapting Pink Floyd’s opus is a tantalizing enough prospect to pique my curiosity and fuel my hopes that a formula exists that can turn my indifference into joy.
A reinterpretation of a classic requires a different approach to that of a standard review. Whether the music merits praise or otherwise is moot considering that any potential reader will already be familiar with the source material. Instead, criticism hinges on two main points: is the music different enough to stand apart from the original and is it executed in such a way that it bears the hallmark of the musician’s main output? Judged by those metrics, Doom Side of the Moon is a profound disappointment, struggling to justify its existence beyond serving as a distraction for curious onlookers.
The first thing that stands out when “Speak to Me” begins is not what’s different but what’s missing. Gone is the iconic heartbeat and pained screams and in their place, we’re treated to reams of feedback; a pallid substitute that does little to set the tone for the ensuing tracks. “Breathe” is practically the same as the original, only a little slower, a little heavier. In fact, take the statement “a little slower, a little heavier” and apply it to the rest of the album and you have a succinct summary of this hobbled project. Worse, the exclusion of elements like the aforementioned heartbeat, the cash register ringing on “Money” and the dearth of female vocals is an omission that drains Doom Side of the Moon of any character.
The critical failing on the album is just how unimaginative the arrangements are. Nearly every track begins and ends exactly how you expect with scant few asides or inventive interpretations. “Time” is the only song on Doom Side of the Moon with any real identity to separate itself from the original, marching to a febrile beat with some quality drumming and freak-out riffs. On the other hand, “Money,” the only song on DSotM that I unequivocally enjoy, sounds like Monster Magnet after a stint in rehab. When Type O Negative and Celtic Frost covered a song you were given an interpretation that was both unique and steeped in the band’s signature sound. Doom Side of the Moon has no personality to call its own, the tone indistinguishable from the litany of Southern-tinged retro-doom bands that litter the landscape. Considering how derivative The Sword are, it’s hardly shocking that this is the end result.
Bands have to be held to a higher standard whenever they try their hand at a cover as they are riding the coattails of established greatness, doubly so when we are talking about an entire album. If the music doesn’t offer an innovative take on the original then what justification is there to waste someone’s time and money when they could be listening to the genuine article? I had hoped that Doom Side of the Moon could address my issues with DSotM, namely the awful pacing that makes a 40-minute album simultaneously feel both rushed and an absolute chore to sit through. Instead, I’m left with a timorous adaptation that strips the original record of its few good points and a botched opportunity to produce something special. I suppose some measure of thanks is owed to Shutt, et al, as it took an uninspired, waxen facsimile of DSotM for me to grudgingly acknowledge its merits beyond serving as the mating call for unkempt stoners.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Releases Worldwide: August 4th, 2017