Quo vadis, King Dude, I asked myself after listening to “Burning Daylight” a few times two years ago. What first started as a Death in June-like solo project with a Death in June-y instrumental setup (guitars, voice, drums, loops – done), a Current 93-esque set of themes (Love, demons, angels, hopelessness, god…) and a Johnny Cash-like soft spot on traditional american folk songs (like some Mr. Cash has written), turned into a full band. This mixture was fun live, but was not that convincing on the predecessor of “Fear”. It was dark, it was gloomy, but something was missing. Still, doom, darkness and gloom aren’t gone on “Fear”, and what has been promised by two singles, one regular EP and three split EPs, one with Urfaust, two with Chelsea Wolfe – a band that has both improved as songwriters and musicians – has been kept.
But the darkness isn’t as choking and uncomfortable. Instead of being as foggy as possible, some apocalypticism is gone for good. Instead, songs like “Demon Caller Number Nine”, “Cloven Hoof of Fear” or “Bottomless Pit” are country-rockish, groovy dancefloor monsters. Yup. No joke. The grave neofolk pose has been traded for a big glass of whiskey, Americana feeling and a seat at Satan’s usual table at the Seven Sins strip club down Yellow King’s Road, and the devilish grin really suits the band. “Fear is All You Know” and “Maria”, the first two songs, show the band’s two sides in their extremes: Whilst the first one’s a groovy heavy-rock song, closer to Southern/Doom Rock than to the , the other one is an acoustic ballad, showing the Neofolk roots of King Dude, a very beautiful
song with a great violin solo. The range of influences is as wide as the diversity of songs on this album – most notably “Watching over you” displays the new found influences; whoever knows Johnny Cash’s “We’ll Meet Again” might have a good idea what happens in that song; TJ’s solo part is followed by a haunting choir. For my weird liking, the highlight’s hidden at the end.
Another new trick in King Dude’s repertoire, aside from the grooviness and catchiness, is the “American-ness” of some songs. Whilst prior releases could easily be classified as Neofolk which could have been made by some Europeans, the atmosphere, more than the music, is a King Dude standalone. Nice alt-country influences – Hello, Johnny Cash – and some real dirty rock’n’roll influences paints the atmosphere deep strip-club illumination red. The atmosphere of the album has been best illustrated by the band itself, in the ace “Fear is all you know”-video. It’s got the smell of your dirty favourite bar.
Though as both bands do not sound similar, the comparison to Spiritual Front can be made, back to when they released “Armageddon Gigolo” nearly ten years ago. Both bands made quite conventional but good Neofolk; then they turned to their respective countries’ folk music – and released their best album(s) so far. King Dude have opened to a new audience, and it works out perfectly fine. The shift towards a more catchy sound really pleases me, as well as it should please open-minded neofolk fans, as well as people with a soft spot for dark music of all kinds should give a good listen.