Leather Nun: “Buddha Knievel” CD

Four years in the making, the power trio has returned with their fourth full- length album. John Sarnie may be the only returning face although as the primary voice and lead guitarist the band is synonymous with him and that sound remains largely unchanged. As proof of the pudding, “Bourgeois Pig” is a huge helping of Maryland Doom. The riffs, melodies and soloing darned right satisfying. “Burning Village” and “Into Abyss” have been cut thick in much the same way. The accompanying vocals suitably breathy to gravelly in turn. “Barghest” is a raging and confrontational throwback to their earliest muscular workouts where searing lead breaks sound over the battle charge. Great. But by and large, the pervading atmosphere of the record is most striking. Poignant and melancholic from the very “Prologue” onwards, the slow and spacious feeling underlies the delivery throughout. It particularly comes to the fore again in the moody instrumentals and refrains peppering the main body of songs. Somehow though, the album is still neither as strong nor cohesive as it should be. The gentle “Interlude” seems misplaced, the bridge of “Warwolf” lacks the finesse of its opening gallop and “Priestess” is spoiled by its generic imagery. Even the Viking “Winter Kill” begins to buckle under its own weight. Carrying a sense of finale and exuding confidence, it builds epic tension through a shift of swift blackened tremolo picking. However, the unexpected distorted vocal snarl feels like a Norse tribute gone wrong and rather than close on the brooding chords, “Irish Steel” ushers in a light hearted, feel good swing and heavy groove with nods and winks to Thin Lizzy. As enjoyable as it is, for me, it undermines the gravity of what came before rather than offering much needed relief. Another sequencing mishap. Perhaps these chinks in the armour would be less gaping if the overall concept was more substantial. A cursory glance at the song titles and lyrics reveal a clash with the pensive music that pours from the speakers. It recalls the comic book simplicity that dogged its two predecessors. If it can be ignored is uncertain. But I know the band can do better so expect more. Quite frustrating really given Sarnie’s gift for singing and playing. Unless the band is bolder and defies convention, “All Your Kin” will remain their best and others may take or leave them altogether for the Wino classics.

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