Bleak – Dig two Graves (Screamlite Records)

  Van Muylem    8 november 2016

It’s the first Bleak album I review (and basically their second one, first one went out in 2011 “..for the Good of the Nation” and was very well received), in the past I had the chance to listen to some of their tracks and I know that Anton also joined - for a while - the live crew of Tony Wakeford (Sol Invictus).  When I saw him on stage I knew he has the right spirit (he also played guitar/bass in History of Guns, Delerium Tremens and several others) and now is the time to unveil it all about their newest album ...

The band mixes Rock’n Roll/blues with folk and gets you into rebellion! I hear some The Pogues in it (due to Anton’s voice: Russian mixed with English). It all starts with 30%Wolf as you hear the wolf howling whilst drinking some heavy alcohol, but towards the end the bottle runs dry. Rock until you drop! It sounds like a perfect live track, mixed with some rum! One Woman War Zone  sounds like a battle field, the last war led by our beloved Toots Thielemans on harmonica and a gentle lady (Rachel) singing in the background. We hear a choir and some soul during 3 days of Hell (it sounds like a Nick Cave song). The song was written during the riots from 2011 in Tottenham as Anton was in the midst of it and couldn’t go out (back to his home). It’s one of the highlights on the album (I hope the song gets picked up by others). Babe has angelic backing vocals (Rachel and Yvonne), but sounds a bit like recorded in the cupboards. It’s a nice unplugged track (but maybe put the vocals more in the front and clear out the effect on the vocals). But hey, as they wanted to capture their real sound and not sound like Lady Gaga or Britney Spears I feel like needing to quote Anton: “All songs are recorded live, with no overdubs. That's how we record, we are a live band. Any background noise is just what happens. Babe was one of the acoustic numbers, it's always a bit different when you get a bunch of instruments around a single mic, like, say John Lee Hooker during the 1942 Savoy Sessions. Recording live is the only way to capture the intensity of it.”

Perfect has a bluesy feel, the kind I adore, just as the lyrics and the backings, yet another highlight. Butcher Blues is a strange title, but deserves a song. Once again the guitars sound great, sharp as the butcher whilst slashing the meat. I also think Toots Thielemans would have loved this song.  Dig Two Graves could have figured on the classic Nick Cave album (Murder Ballads). Another nice country & blues feel comes with Bones : Yvonne sings the leads and gets some help from Rachel. The harmonica and unplugged guitar sound gives it a great touch. Sometimes I even hear some soul and funk in it. Great work! Ebb & Flow has another great narrative feel. Rachel takes the lead, whilst Anton does some backings. The Last Witch of Salem sounds like a hot and steamy track, the fire is within the lyrical story. Final Nail sound groovy and tango minded but has heavy lyrics. Yup, it’s the final nail to your coffin. Drinking Song is the one I already heard before, but has a more bluesy feel here and nope this is not an Alestorm song! I like the guitar play on this one and you can hear the live touch, making it a great track. Resurection Blues sounds like the morning after track and it must have been a great party, waking up in the gutter. The band sounds like on fire and nothing going to stop them!  Right from Good starts softly and slowly awakens, fades out and fades in with a jazzy reel. More smoking blues rock comes with Shangai Blues. For once I feel this could have been an Alestorm track, might be a good idea to send it to them and ask for a cover version? The harmonica and the guitar sound really heavenly. The Death of Bessie Smith bewitches you with a mysterious feel and a siren’s call while Anton brings the best of Nick Cave out of himself. It also reminds me a bit of Iggy Pop's latest narrative tracks with now and then a wall of sound. The lyrics are sharp and sadly feeling like a real life story. In this I bow my head as it’s the right way to say no to racism. The Longest Night is the last track, feels a bit like a bonus track (after the previous track: a real pearl). You can hear the live feel with now and then a little vocal slip and slide. This acoustic song is pretty hard to play live without errors, it’s a real daring matter.

It was good to hear something like this, with its ups and downs. I’m a bit sad that I missed the live presentation of the album, but to quote a great song: I’m only human & there will be a next time!