Album: Boot Hill Hymnal
Label: Ratchet Blade Records
It’s not often a band surprises me with something strange and different, but that is exactly what Heathen Apostles did when I heard the first verse of their debut album “Boot Hill Hymnal”. The musicians here are well known to me with vocals by Mather Louth (Radio Noir) and Chopper Franklin(The Cramps) handling the guitar. However the sound that hit my ears was nothing like this groups individual past projects. Some are calling this “Gothic Country” but I feel this is misleading. When one hears the term country, one generally thinks of modern country of the last say 20 years. Heathen Apostles sound is birthed by the music of the far past. Unlike the music of bands like Fields of the Nephilim that blend a southern country or cowboy image into the Gothic sound, Heathen Apostles transports the listeners into another time frame completely. I personally prefer the label of “Dark Roots” music to describe their morbid melodies.
The album begins it’s morbid journey of murder ballad Americana with the toe taping track “Red Brick Dust”. This song is a great welcome to the band’s sound. It’s a familiar sounding structure while introducing the listener to this new sonic world. It’s the most rock or puck groove on the album and it’s chorus hits vocal melodies that are reminiscent of the Radio Noir song “Desert Woman”. Not to contraindicate my statement from earlier. The album really descends into it’s signature style with the second track, “Dark Was the Night”. Incidentally my favorite cut on Boot Hill Hymnal. This morbid tale of the loss of a loved one quickly transports the listener into the desolate landscape of a western town in the late 1800′s. The somber tone of Mather‘s haunting vocals are at flat out beautiful. The music now filling out the sound with fiddles, guitars, and mandolin. It’s easy to close your eyes and find yourself in a dark and haunted town full of lawlessness and death.
“Forget Me Not” is a toe tapping tune that has a touch of Nick Cave‘s Murder Ballads in it. It’s a ghostly tale that really shows off the incredible song writing this group possess. Which is very evident in the cohesive nature of the whole album. This is not a “Let’s give this sound a try.” type of album. Heathen Apostles throws everything into this album to make a truly authentic experience. My mind floats thorough the dark side of the Wild West and the Civil War while listening. Mather is no stranger to creating different time periods. Her work with Radio Noir invokes a 1920′s/30′s atmosphere.
I am not going to go song by song in this review. Suffice it to say every song is wonderfully crafted and they are all worth a good listening too. However, there are a few stand out tracks for me, in addition to “Dark was the Night”. “Murderer Of Souls” is a powerful track that has a huge sound and, well, just plain rocks. I could easily see this as the theme to some dark western or a Southern horror tale. The albums closer, “Lonesome Whistle”, is a simple yet strong melody that leaves the listeners with a bleak feeling and a want of more. Then there is “The Reckoning”. Returning to the toe tapping beat this song has a huge story and sports an apocalyptic feel. Like a steam train out of control and spewing fire from it’s stack. A killer track that also has a great video, the first video from Boot Hill Hymnal.
This debut from Heathen Apostles is a wondrously crafted album that weaves a world all it’s own. It’s powerful, somber, toe tapping, and dark. This is a group distended to leave an indelible mark on the Dark Alternative scene. I am looking forward to the next offering from these macabre masters of melody. Until then I will set Boot Hill Hymnal on a loop. This is a must have album for just about everyone. Do yourself a favor and get the whole album and get lost in this wondrous world known as Heathen Apostles.
Reviewed by: Darkest Jack