JIRM – The Tunnel, The Well, Holy Bedlam Review

The Tunnel, The Well, Holy Bedlam: one of the coolest album titles so far this year. It comes to us courtesy the psychedelic spaced-out minds of JIRM, known as Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus until 2018’s Surge Ex Monumentis album. Now here they are four years older and wiser but presumably just as high, with their fifth album, and with a title like that (and some cool song titles as well) I’m intrigued despite my tepid thoughts on their last one. I’m all for psychedelic prog rock bands and will give ‘em all a fair shot, but consistency across an entire album is elusive if your name isn’t Pink Floyd. And while their last one had its moments, they were too far between. Can JIRM finally capture that secret psych sauce here and deliver something special?

If opener “Liquid Covenant” is any indication of things to come, we might be onto something. It opens in amazing, epic fashion, and immediately draws the listener in. While clearly not the same musically, it gives me a similar feeling as Cult of Luna’s opener “Cold Burn,” as it just has that glorious post-apocalyptic vibe about it. It’s a truly majestic song that gets my hopes sky high for the rest of the album. “Repent in Blood,” yet another great song title, is also a strong piece. Plaintive vocals highlight the opening atop psychedelic guitars. The song seems to drag at first but gradually forces its way into your subconscious, building in power until by the middle of the eight minutes you’re hooked.

JIRM’s feel throughout the album is of a vast, gloomy expanse. Everything sounds massive, reverb soaks the layers of guitars, and epic but not busy drums bash away at a crawling pace. The final two tracks, “Carried Away” and “Pestilence,” both feature strong vocals from Karl Apelmo, slightly more intelligible than in the past, and at times very heartfelt. The first three minutes of  “Carried Away” is super, and although it does stagger to the finish line it does so in emotional fashion. And after an ominous opening, “Pestilence” features the album’s only couple minutes of up-tempo rocking. It’s a welcome changeup but comes far too late, and as the song slumps back into murky meanderings for the final four minutes we are left wondering what it was all about.

And that’s the rub. The Tunnel, The Well, Holy Bedlam has some great, gripping moments, but overall is long, moody, drawn-out (the shortest song is 6:59), and at times lacking in direction. “Deeper Dwell” is the primary example of this as it swings randomly through spaced-out slow psychedelia, lounge jazz with dreamy vocals and the gentle wafting of a saxophone, more big guitar chords, and so forth. You get the picture. It’s a discombobulated mess. That’s probably the point, but that doesn’t mean it will work for listeners. After all, the band themselves say “if you like or dislike any of this, we literally can’t be blamed…we totally lost control the minute we made our first contact with the making of sound.”

I feel like I’m supposed to like this a lot more than I do – in fact, I’m sure there will be people out there who feel this is JIRM’s masterpiece, and that’s great. Much like Surge Ex Monumentis, there are sterling moments here, and a few bona-fide gems, but an equal number of misses means The Tunnel, The Well, Holy Bedlam is yet another JIRM album where I find myself pulling a few songs out and skipping the rest. Maybe it’s as simple as finding the right chemical makeup of some good edibles, but sadly I didn’t have enough time to experiment with that here. I can see that helping a lot, though. Maybe someone else can give it a shot and report back.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Ripple Music
Websites: jirm.bandcamp.com | jirm.se | facebook.com/JeremyIronsandtheratgangmalibus
Releases Worldwide: March 4, 2022

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