When Ghost popped out of the ground/Vatican and started spinning their poppy, Satanic throwback rock for the masses, they inadvertently birthed a whole new wave of acts seeking to merge the same 70s rock influences with occult imagery and demonic subject matter. One of the earliest adapters of this “new” style was Germany’s Kadavar, who fused psychedelic rock with horror and occult themes in ways that were as good and sometimes better than anything Ghost had done before. Over the course of their relatively short career they’ve impressed time and again with smart, catchy writing and riff-heavy righteousness, sounding like a madcap hybrid of The Darkness, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and the previously mentioned boo-urns crews. Fifth album For the Dead Ride Fast is less an evolution of their sound than a celebration of all things fuzzy, trippy and creepy, and that means jammy whammy good times with an ear toward hooks and generally infectious antics. They aren’t heavy in the traditionally sense, but they certainly know how to rock for the Devil, and sometimes that’s all you need.
For the Dead Ride Fast at its core is a fun, rollicking time trip through the 70s psychedelic era, replacing anthems of peace, love and herb with odes to Lucifer, evil and Vampirella. Less chaotic and in-your face than 2017s Rough Times, this is a return to their countryside coven roots. From the first licks of “The Devil’s Master” you know this is going to be a butt-shakin, riff-quakein’ slab o’ breeziness and it rarely disappoints. These chaps are very talented at writing hook-intensive guitar rock full of fuzzy, wicked jams, and they wisely keep the song lengths concise and tight, with only one track exceeding the 5 minute mark. “The Devil’s Master” is the best song Uncle Acid never wrote and it could sit comfortably on any of their releases. Christoph “Lupus” Lindemann’s weird, nasally vocals are perfectly suited to the throwback riffing and bass-intensive swing, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid getting carried away by the flood of good times rock the band pumps out, made all the better by the slightly dark vibe the band injects. The fun continues across the hard rocking energy of “Evil Forces,” where elements of Nazareth and Thin Lizzy do battle with The Darkness in amusing ways. “Children of the Night” sounds like Ghost trying to write a new song for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it’s more enjoyable than it should be, as awkward as it is. The late-song segue into something much like Sabbath‘s “War Pigs” is a nice touch as well.
My personal favorite is “Dancing With the Dead” with its laid back, jammy coolness that takes a page from the best of Hexxvessel, and the guitar-work here is excellent. The only real misstep is the chilled out ballad, “Saturnales” which does nothing for me save for grinding the album’s momentum to a halt. At a tight 46 minutes, there isn’t much other fat on the grave biscuit, though a minute or two could be excised from lengthy closer “Long Forgotten Song.” I love the reverb-heavy, retro sound the band achieved, with a rich, warm production and a great bass presence. It definitely feels like a love child of early 70s recordings technology and that adds a lot to the band’s mischievous charm.
Lindemann is a love-or-hate kind of vocalist, but he’s perfect for what the band is going for. His high-pitched vocals can sound thin and strained sometimes, while his more restrained croons manage to be both olde timey and effectively creepy. Lindemann’s real calling is as a rock guitarist, where he puts on a clinic on how to channel the old into something relatively new. His playing is endearingly stuck in the past, mixing fuzz, feedback and fret-board excess in ways sure to invoke a smile in even the most jaded music connoisseur. Most importantly, his riffs attach themselves to you like demonic lampreys and good luck getting those suckers off. Simon “Dragon” Bouteloup’s bass rolls and rumbles everywhere, never becoming too intrusive but always making its presence felt in helpful ways with a fat low-end shimmy. Lastly, Christoph “Tiger” Bartelt’s steady but rowdy hand at the kit puts the power in this power trio, forcing the listener to pay attention to what he’s doing even as the vocals and riffs fight for your attention.
For the Dead Travel Fast is occult rock as it should be done – loud, boisterous and 120% in league with the Devil. Kadavar has always been good, but this outing shows they can take their game up a few notches still. This is an album that gets better with each spin, so get started spinning it now. Time is not on your side, but it is on theirs. Mmmm, corpus delicti.