King Bastard – It Came From the Void Review

It’s become a joke in the AMG tea-room that stoner doom, while often quite enjoyable, very rarely stands out. The languid, hazy riffs and easy atmosphere make for music that flirts cheekily with memorability, but rarely commits to it. Part of the reason, I suspect, is that most of this music operates in a slightly blunted emotional frequency, reflecting the effect being stoned has on the listener. The aim is to chill, not jolt. The downside is that little sticks out through the haze. But what if things could be a bit more interesting? What if you threw in some… space travel, a la Sleep? But combined it with horror elements straight from Alien? And smoked a fat one while you were at it? Enter New York foursome, King Bastard, with their debut It Came From the Void. Crashing in with all the subtlety of day-old bong water, it’s a trip all right. But it’s one you should consider taking.

When I was growing up, there was a joint you could smoke called a “suitcase.” This was a potent mixture of marijuana and tobacco, sprinkled with quaaludes (or “Mandrax” as we called it). It Came From the Void is a bit like a suitcase: imagine the tobacco base being stoner doom, but liberally mixed with psychedelic elements that bring to mind Pink Floyd, and sprinkled with some disturbing horror to give it some kick. But listening to opening track, “From Hell to Horizon,” you’d be forgiven for thinking you were simply smoking strong tobacco. It’s a steady number that lays the base by combining thick riffs and progressive noodlings, but played with a slightly unfamiliar intensity. Dense guitars alternating with jazz, trumpets, recorded voices… these all combine to create an immersive—if familiar—experience. So far, so unremarkable. But it’s shortly thereafter that you get to the weird stuff, and it’s here that the album becomes interesting.

It Came From the Void pays clear homage to the Alien franchise, and not just in its use of sound clips from the films. Much like the first movie, the horror here is hidden beneath the sci-fi. The album’s “chest burster” moment—when proceedings shift notably—is  when the harsh vocals enter on “Psychosis (In a Vacuum).” At this point, It Came From the Void abruptly changes to a more expansive, meaner, scarier sound. In other words, the trip gets real. Riffs distort and bleed into each other; the softer moments introduce dissonance and tension; a notable element of tension is created. It’s certainly far more ambitious than your average stoner album, and It Came From the Void is all the more interesting for it. By the time closer “Succumb to the Void” fades out, the feeling is not one of chilled vibes, but chilling disquiet.

The downside to all this atmospheric doom and gloom is that It Came From the Void occasionally lacks the riffs and hooks to really pull you in. After the catchiness of the opener, the listener must wait until fourth track, “Bury the Survivors _ Ashes to Ashes” for the next truly head-noddable moment. The riffs aren’t weak, but with so much thick oppression and calculated madness, more is required to drag the listener through the horror. This slow-burn approach without obvious footholds requires patience and commitment that those simply looking for chilled vibes may not be willing to supply. The album also fades out into mostly drone for its final 6 minutes, which ends proceedings on a whimper, rather than a bang.

It Came From the Void is an admirably ambitious debut stoner doom album. In a genre which is known for having all the surprise of a hidden joint in a teenager’s room, this stands out for bringing real intensity and even horror to the game. It’s messy and it lacks the hooks to truly stand out, but it’s certainly not bland or emotionally blunted like so many contemporaries. If you’re looking for something scarily psychedelic, and just a bit different, to kick off 2022, this “suitcase” is one you should fire up.

 


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Website: kingbastardtheband.bandcamp.com/  |  facebook.com/kingbastardtheband
Releases Worldwide: January 14th, 2022

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