With barely a pause for breath, only a couple of months after the LP Splinters saw their EPs collected into one disc Liverpool’s Salem Rages have struck again with their first full length album Aspects of the Deepest Gloom. In fact not just struck again, but struck hard and fucking fast – this is a more immediate and powerful beast than previous releases, despite a title which sounds like it should belong to a member of the Barrier Kult (non-skateboarders might need the help of a search engine for that one). From the opening crackle and driving rain of instrumental ‘1692’, the album utilises the same format of between song samples as heard in Splinters, but the riff which breaks through the noise is a heavier and angrier than what has come before. This sets up what is to follow, with the short sharp blast of ‘One for Sorrow’ almost sounding like it could have belonged to singer Russ Weasel’s outfit Cold Ones. With attention now fixed, ’13 Times’ pulls on the reins slightly and channels the gothic spirit which has driven the group from the beginning.
Amongst aficionados of German expressionist cinema the spiral is a powerful connotation of madness, something which most likely more people will have seen appropriated in the works of Alfred Hitchcock.‘Deathtides’ continues in a mid tempo vein - a powerful slice of goth rock from which The Damned could learn a thing or two – when out of the murk surfaces a spiralling organ sound, a brief interlude that nevertheless highlights perfectly what makes Salem Rages stand out in the DIY music scene. ‘Black/White’ was one of the highlights of Splinters, and is the only song which resurfaces on Aspects… with added tinkling ivories at the end, as the descent into madness begins again. Before falling completely into the abyss, however, ‘A Smokescreen Afterlife’ chugs slowly into life; a menacingly slow guitar riff and drum beat which is gradually overlaid by some surf-influenced guitar sounds, think the Night Birds on tramadol jamming an instrumental. The shorter instrumental ‘1985’ plays through in a similar vein but acts more as an opening for follow up track ‘Shadow of a Rat’, with the group starting to rev back up and throwing in a good solid fist pumper of a chorus as well. B.A.T.S. is an all-out hardcore stomper, male/female vocal duality used to good effect for what will be a definite crowd-mover live.
The piano which follows is a brief moment of new wave reflection before the assault continues with the goth rock of ‘New Grave’. The last two tracks eschew the hardcore thrust of the rest of the record, settling into a sprawling groove with ‘Fall of Greatness’ before a choral acappella which would not sound out of place on an early Steeleye Span record opens the lurching album closer ‘Purging the Flowers’. Slowly building from a TSOL-style riff and a drawled vocal, it continuously threatens to break into a faster and heavier beast without ever actually doing so. It is this tension which gives the song its power, I’ve no idea who I’m quoting here but horror films are always scarier when you never actually see the monster right? It is this ethos which drives ‘Purging the Flower’, leaving you not with a feeling of closure but with a sense that there is more to come – turning back to the horror film analogy, as the screen fades to black on the survivors slowly moving away, something stirs in the wreckage…
By Jono Coote