Album Reviews

Salem – King Night

(IAMSOUND) UK release date: 27 September 2010

Invoking the disturbing nature of the Salem witch trials would appear to make quite a bit of sense, as King Night engages with the part of the brain normally reserved for nightmares. But the album’s slow-moving morass of industrial noise – a sound that is infrequently melodic and never consistently rhythmic – invokes a monster of a different kind. It’s a sound that towers above the listener, moves in semi-ponderous lurches, frightens the living hell out of anyone in its proximity and yet, despite all this, is somehow willing and brave enough to show us tiny glimpses of its nearly-human soul.

But like that Monster, acceptance is not going to be an easy thing for King Night. Asking a great big hulking beast of dark, shrouded drag and bastardised crunk shoegaze to merge with the banality of regular society is like, well, fabricating a man out of dead peoples’ body parts and politely introducing him at a dinner party. Truth is, King Night belongs where it was made: either festering in the disturbed minds of its creators or, once awakened, lurking in the dank, lightless graveyards of an urban wasteland.

Almost exclusively synthesised, but not particularly futuristic, King Night almost feels like it belongs in the past, hunting its prey on the implicitly dystopian LA streets of James Cameron’s The Terminator or Michael Mann’s Manhunter. If anything, the band members’ home town of Traverse City is a crazily appropriate-sounding name for the album’s inexorable musical landscape. Soulless, in between somewhere hopeful and somewhere dead-end, like some living, breathing purgatory.

So yeah, not many will feel like plugging into something this densely layered and downright oppressive as they walk down the street. Unless they like feeling mildly schizophrenic of an evening. Put it in the correct setting, however – the grimiest, dingiest disused city basement or garage would be swell – and King Night’s symphony of lurching synths-on-synths, tinny drum pats, lung-thumping thuds and abused choir girl vocals will feel like a) the most exciting thing this year or b) like the plates of your skull are fracturing and brain is coming out of your ears.

The album’s vice-like grip does weaken on occasion. Many will disagree about the crunk influence – otherwise known as the rap bits – on Sick, Trapdoor and Tair. And it’s not that the tracks are particularly weak; the rap tracks just tire more quickly than the other, basically instrumental, tracks. But this stupidly minor quibble doesn’t detract from what King Night does.

Occasionally, albums pass by that are said to be the perfect soundtrack for a specific film or films of a particular genre. King Night feels like it took one giant step beyond that. By creating a world so comic-book vivid, each track stands and walks in its own desolate, saturnine world. But it’s a world where the dead want to be alive and the alive would rather be dead. The creation of warped minds, Salem just made a monster.

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Salem – King Night