Back in 2017, the epic doom of Sorcerer’s excellent The Crowning of the Fire King marched its way onto a couple of Top 10(ish) lists, coming in at #5 for The Huckster and #1 for our great ape, Steel Druhm. Nothing has really come close to emulating that feel so far this year — perhaps the closest we’ve come is the satisfyingly thick platter of Týr-ish goodness that was Khemmis’ Desolation. But that album didn’t hit home like Sorcerer did, nor has it had the staying power. Enter Spanish newcomers Black Lotus, and their debut album, Sons of Saturn, which promises to be chock full of epicness. We’ve got some super album artwork, a kick-ass logo, and a guitarist named Charlie Goatskull. Sounds like a recipe for success — or disaster. One way or the other, it should prove memorable.
After a brief, eerie voiceover (“Where there is fear there is darkness…”), Black Lotus charge into “Kings” with thunderous might. Mr. Goatskull’s riff is tight, and when the intro slides into the verse the melody is foreboding. Bassist/singer Cristian Vil has a deep, majestic voice that almost (but not quite) grabs us like a dark prophet, and the song pounds us like veal cutlets. “Kings” is an epic cut that treads satisfyingly close to Sorcerer territory. “Sandstorm” is a ten-minute dirge, where the band brings their psychedelic doom to the fore, and the title track is heroic doom at its finest, a lengthy number that makes my bones ache as though I’ve been marching for days. Closing song “The Swamp” is twelve minutes of doom anchored by a blowtorch-fuelled bass. It’s a tasty track with some great guitarwork from Mr. Goatskull, with quiet moments, inspired choruses, and a galloping finale — doom glory incarnate.
Not all the songs hit home, though, and in fact, three of the eight tracks are merely interludes. “The Pyre,” at almost two minutes, actually should have been allowed to develop fully into the main song, it’s that good, and the song it leads into, “Protective Fire,” is too simple to stand with the other numbers, especially with its bizarre reggae-style closing chorus. “Taurobolium” is just plain weird, and close listening reveals the sacrifice of a bull — ah, those crazy Spaniards, always doing things to bulls! What it all adds up to is not enough top-notch songs to make the entirety of Sons of Saturn ring trve.
Musically, Black Lotus have what it takes for the style. And production-wise, ditto. The bass is low and weighty, the drummer socks it to us, and the guitar playing is on par with any other bands. Vil has a great tone to his voice, but his weakness lies in its versatility. Meaning, there is none. He has approximately a three-note range, and while he doesn’t embarrass himself by going after unattainable high notes, he actually falters when he tries to go lower. Also, and I could be wrong here but it sure sounds like he’s pronouncing everything phonetically. That’s not an issue per se — it worked for years for the Scorpions — but it does lead to some unique pronunciations that, in addition to his penchant for substituting “d” for “th” (like “dat,” “dem,” and “dere”) makes for some unintentionally cute phrasings. Follow along to the lyric video to get my point.
That’s hardly the end of the world, though, and while the vocals hold the band back to a small degree. What’s more important is the fact that Sons of Saturn is a promising debut that will come close to satisfying fans of the last Sorcerer album. With some spit and polish on the vocals, and a couple more great songs instead of short interludes, Black Lotus might be able to bull their way into the upper echelons of the genre.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Websites: orderoftheblacklotus.bandcamp.com/releases | facebook.com/orderoftheblacklotus
Releases Worldwide: October 19th, 2018