Portland, Oregon sextet Blitzen Trapper released their fifth LP Destroyer of the Void this week. Following on from predecessor Furr (2008) and the Black River Killer EP (2009) their latest is again released on Sub Pop.
The recording took place in an attic studio in the Januarys of 2009 and 2010, where frontman Eric Earley and bandmates worked alongside studio engineer Mike Coykendall (Bright Eyes, M Ward) to create their latest which plays as a microcosm of the best music of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
As a band their likenesses and influences range from the early records of the contemporary, alt-country Wilco, to Son Volt, then backtrack to a toned down Meatloaf or Queen in places, before finally ending up in Laurel Canyon amongst the founding fathers of classic rock. While being prog-rockish on the record’s opening number and title track these flamboyant and otherworldly qualities are stripped down over its course, revealing inspiration and paying homage to the troubadour folk of the 60’s, Dylan and perhaps even the Grateful Dead.
The opening epic title track “Destroyer of the Void”, spins a harmonious yarn of a “wayward son” before pausing – seemingly ending – and transforming itself into a psychedelic fit of rock-operatic vocals and instrumentation by the end of its six minutes.
The band’s spin on the murder ballad is exposed in “The Man Who Would Speak Truth”; a track which runs along as simply and timelessly as the best of Jason Isbell’s Drive By Truckers narratives: “I fed my tongue on the Devil’s rum….I only spoke truth but it only brought death”. Its simplicity some may dislike for all the deliberate rhyming but that works as neatly as if it were centuries old – which being a band favoured by Folk Radio is the kind of talented imitation we appreciate.
The 12 track album features Alela Diane on “The Tree” which in its pastoral imagery camouflages her distinctive voice as she matches lead singer Earley; speaking of beards of bees shaking in the wind. “Evening Star” is often Dylan-esque in the vocalist’s annunciations, and troubadour folk influences rustle through “Below the Hurricane”.
This all along with the Simon & Garfunkel/Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonising that closes certain tracks make up an album with perhaps more influences than original songs. Still even the production has an air of nostaligic haze that allows the record to run seamlessly, start to finish, as if it were an old and dusty 70s compliation. All that aside more of the six minute opener that suggested this was a concept album from the outset wouldn’t have gone amiss.