And now for part two of my reviews of two-part albums, the follow-up to Black Space Riders’ January release, Amoretum Vol. 1. What hooked me into that first album (and has kept me coming back regularly to select songs) was the overall feel of the songs — groovy, psychedelic cuts with a tight focus on rhythm and plenty of David Bowie influence. What I didn’t like was the opening song, an out-of-place, messy garage-punk outlier, and the penchant for the band to identify themselves only with initials. My final words in that review were “I’m on board for Vol. 2. Hopefully, Black Space Riders keep it going.” So… do they?
Well, they certainly keep something going. Where Vol. 1 was about 45 minutes long and consisted of eight songs, Vol. 2 is a whopper: fourteen songs, taking well over an hour to get through. That’s long for any album, let alone one that is supposed to be the second part of an album. Is it even possible to write 22 good songs? No, in this case, it certainly isn’t. Right when Vol. 2 starts, I’m worried about where this is headed. “Before My Eyes” is just like Vol. 1 opener “Lovely Lovelie;” it’s a fast, messy punked-up song with out-of-control singing, and if listened to immediately following the closing track on Amoretum Vol. 1, doesn’t mesh at all. But last time around this was the exception to the rule, so my hopes aren’t completely dashed just yet.
The problem is that the second track, “LoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLoveLove! (Break the Pattern of Fear)” is just like the first. Vol. 2 is shaping up to be the uncouth, STD-infected big brother to Vol. 1’s hippie younger brother. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but with vocals that border on comedic at times, these garage-band songs do not resonate — and unlike the last album, there are a lot of songs like this. If you include the Riverdance-like weirdness of “Sláinte (Salud Dinero Amor),” fully half the songs on Vol. 2 are of suspect quality, more in line with Black Space Riders’ output from their Refugeeum album. It makes me wonder if the (much cooler) psychedelic cuts are more anomalies and experiments than a coherent direction. When they go that route — and don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of that here as well — the songs are much catchier and effective.
Two of the best cuts are “Take Me to the Stars” and “Chain Reaction.” Both songs feature a churning bass line, psychedelic overtones, and vocal deliveries that are emotive and charismatic, something that is frankly lacking on too many songs. “Walls Away” is another number that’s cut from the same cloth as the stronger songs on Vol. 1, with a stellar, spaced-out feel. These are where Black Space Riders are at their best, digging into our subconscious with subtle, laid-back groove. “The Wait Is Never Over” is also an excellent song, but at thirteen minutes, including a two-minute-long blast of feedback to end it, this closing cut made me think that Amoretum Vol. 2 would never be over.
Going into the summer, I was really looking forward to seeing where Black Space Riders would take us on Amoretum Vol. 2. But with too many songs, too long an album, and a number of those songs being as rough as they are, I couldn’t buy into Vol. 2 the way I did with Vol. 1. The first album was eight songs long: it would have been easy to cut six songs from Vol. 2 and leave us with a short, memorable record. Instead, Black Space Riders threw everything on tape, and the results are overly long and uneven.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Black Space Records
Websites: blackspaceriders.bandcamp.com | blackspaceriders.com | facebook.com/blackspaceriders
Releases Worldwide: July 27th, 2018