I spent the summer searching and searching for the next great retro album. I never found it. In fact, all year I’ve only found a half-dozen albums I’ve really liked (as in a 3.5 or higher), and none of those since June. That’s piss-poor and depressing. It’s like owning a black and white television. Well, I’m hoping to upgrade to a color TV eventually this year, so what better time to start looking than right now? I’m hoping that by abandoning the search for retro goodness I can find something cvlt as fvck in another genre. Enter Biblical, a band from Toronto that attempts to blend elements of punk, psychedelic rock, dance, sludge, and noise to concoct something bombastically modern and, yes, cvlt as fvck. Can they pull it off?
Well, if Biblical can’t then they’re damn close. Opening track “Mature Themes” shows the band at their catchiest, with a swinging rhythm section, spaced-out guitars, and furious punk vocals interrupted by a psychedelic keyboard in the middle. It’s a piece of glorious chaos that, either despite or because of all the weirdness, works. Like a number of these songs, “Mature Themes” segues straight into “The Last Thing I Remember,” a much more restrained, trippy number with an interesting mix — drums more to the right, vocals more to the left, and some great tape flange effects towards the end, kind of like the old four-track recordings of the 60s. Stylistically, it’s completely different from the opening track, more an exercise in airy coolness, but thematically it fits perfectly. “Regicide” brings more of the too-cool attitude, with Nick Sewell crooning throughout and a glorious guitar solo thrown in to top things off.
Some quick background: half this four-piece played in Sebastien Granger and the Mountains, a short-lived indy rock band formed by the Death From Above 1979 drummer, while the other half hail from the excellent psych-rock band Comet Control, whose 2016 album Center of the Maze still finds its way onto my playlist from time to time. And you can hear influences from all three of those bands throughout, whether it’s the Pink Floyd nature of “Fugue State,” with undulating synth patches and David Gilmour-cloned vocals, or the psychedelic wash present throughout the title track, or the dance-punk leanings of “House of Knives” and “Mature Themes.”
It’s not all bright lights on The City That Always Sleeps, though. It’s true, I couldn’t find any bad songs on here, but the production is something else. The good news is, the over-saturated sound is completely intentional and fits with the music. Remember Radiohead’s OK Computer? Or how about The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots? Both of those had massive, overblown walls of percussion that exploded from the speakers. Same here. In fact, when Biblical are all pounding their instruments and mics to epic levels, the loudness of the recording is, well, biblical. It’s annoying as hell but as I say, it works with the music, making it an acceptable evil. It’s definitely going to be a game breaker for a lot of people, though.
Yes, The City That Always Sleeps is brickwalled to hell and back again. It’s got a fair degree of screech to it, both in the instruments and the vocals. The audiophile in me detests it, but I locked that part of me far away with other undesirable personalities, and I find myself playing the album more than I probably should. It’s bombastic, yes, and has a lot of catchy material on it. It’s the most un-metal album I’ve reviewed this year — maybe that’s why I’m playing it more than I thought I would? Regardless, Biblical have put out a record that’s a great capper on an otherwise tepid summer, and the best record I’ve reviewed since June. Hopefully, it’s a step towards that color television I’m dreaming about.