Gothic Americana Music

Reviews

Boot Hill Hymnal 5 of 5 Review on DarkestJack.com

HeathenApostlesreviewArtist: Heathen Apostles

Album: Boot Hill Hymnal

Label: Ratchet Blade Record

Released: 2013

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 punk 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.

5/5

Reviewed by: Darkest Jack

Read the review HERE


“Boot Hill Hymnal” Reviewed on Examiner.com

BOOT HILL HYMNAL cover4 of 5 stars

The burgeoning roots revival that has taken hold in recent years has spawned a great many new bands and singer/songwriters. Out of a significant yet heterogeneous faction of them, there are certainly more than a fair number, existing as most worthwhile things do on sacred ground well beyond the borders of the mainstream, whose experimental songs aren’t exactly what a music purist would deem proper roots material. That is due in part to all of the genre and subgenre crossbreeding, or musical hybridization, as it were, by bands and singer/songwriters endeavoring to combine the roots styles of a bygone era with a number of latter-day outsider styles that have since developed throughout the scene. A reasonably new addition to the scene is the Heathen Apostles, a dark roots and gothic country band out of Los Angeles, whose newly released debut on Ratchet Blade Records, “Boot Hill Hymnal,” is a perfect example of this.

Heathen Apostles began when singer/songstress Mather Louth (Radio Noir) and seasoned punk figure Chopper Franklin (The Cramps, Charley Horse), each with a fondness for the darker side of roots-centered music, came together and conspired to develop just such a sound, though based on their very own creative visions and musical ideas. Musician Thomas Lorioux (Kings of Nuthin’) was soon brought into the fold, and baptized a fellow heathen, so that he could contribute upright bass to the project. Together, these three birthed a signature sound built on a foundation of guitar, banjo, mandolin, keyboards, bass, and vocals. Even so, like many other roots artists, the Heathens are fine with employing fellow artists throughout the scene to provide additional instrumentation, just as they had for the album. And…on evidence presented by listening to the album itself, the auxiliary instrumentation by non-members indeed served to lay down layers of sound ornamentation, and, as it were, overall compositional improvement. And that is how such remarkable songs as Red Brick Dust, Dark Was the Night (no, not the Blind Willie Johnson gospel blues masterpiece), Never Forget, The Reckoning, The Dark Pines, and It All Came Down were forged.

Both organic and mechanical, or rather both acoustic and electric, the Heathens’ sound possesses twang and distortion, eerie string arrangements and measured rhythms, finger-picking and foot-stomping, the keen low-end of the upright bass and…a host of other qualities, all of them complemented by the sultry yet haunting female vocals of the lovely Mather Louth. In its way, it is also a rather cinematic sound they have created, evoking both old-timey and present-day imagery. And the dark, fire n’ brimstone poetry of the lyrical content…lines of meaningful words which altogether prove a compass of sorts, its points pausing briefly here and there at dusty desert wastelands to the West, sprawling gray cities to the East, Heaven to the North, and Hell to the South. To get to these musical destinations, there is much in the way of sin and virtue, the saved and the damned, tragic love affairs and that which transpires before the fall, nature and artificiality, pleasure and suffering, beauty and ugliness, sanity and madness, and so on in the way that contraries pull the human heart and soul this direction and that direction. Ultimately where we end up is a mystery, however, a well-kept secret about by the haggard sisters of fate, who sit crooked in their dank and sparsely furnished cells, weave the fabric of life with gnarled fingers on their ancient looms, and to often snip the strings of providence too high or too low.

“Boot Hill Hymnal” can be inserted into the noteworthy category of today’s roots music, beside such comparable artists as Phantom of the Black Hills, Tears of the Moosechaser, Bad Luck City, Sons of Perdition, The Dead Brothers, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, Those Poor Bastards, Peter Murphy’s Carver Combo, and the like. Recorded at The Devil’s Doghouse in Echo Park, and produced and mixed by Chopper Franklin himself, “Boot Hill Hymnal” consists of ten all-original tracks of the Heathen Apostles’ dark roots, gothic country, murder balladry, and historic Americana. Some of the songs were composed by Franklin, some by Louth, but in most cases by both of them together…and they did an excellent job in that respect.

While the songs on “Boot Hill Hymnal” are inextricably bound to the present, the modern American South West, but reaches back to long gone years in humankind’s history to come across as a vintage soundtrack to the dusty Depression era, with its filthy faces and empty pockets, its tattered clothes and worn-out shoes, and infertile soil as far as the eye could see; to rattlesnake-handling preachers delivering fevered revival tent sermons while members of the congregation are moved by the spirit and flail about as they speak in tongues; to so many sickbed prayers falling from the dray and cracked lips of those stricken with consumption and nearing their ends; to painted harlots lounging in ornate parlors of brothels on the outskirts of town; to gypsy hexes and acts of six-gun vengeance; to shadowy bounty hunters on horseback, stalking their prey through the moonlight hours; to Johnson Family hobo wanderers sitting around a fire and passing around a bottle of rotgut beneath a rickety covered bridge off a dirt road somewhere in the American countryside; to battered old bibles placed religiously on bedside tables, only a few feet away from the ol’ double-barrel shotgun, and white-robed sinners waiting in line for muddy river baptismal immersions in the Deep South; carrion birds circling overhead, biding their time before descending upon a lover murdered in a violent act of passion; and the like.

That is the Heathen Apostles’ “Boot Hill Hymnal.”

James Carlson – The Examiner
Read the review HERE