“Let it puncture your heart, bleed through your body and electrify your soul. Because this … THIS IS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL” – Capital letters intentional. A call to arms from Dave Catching, guitarist with Eagles Of Death Metal, QOTSA and also co-producer of the album that he is waxing lyrically over – ‘Faithless Rituals’, the long-awaited debut album from Blackburn’s finest; Sky Valley Mistress.
Long-awaited; as in it was recorded a few years back at Catching’s legendary Rancho de la Luna studio. Now, having bubbled and simmered for what must seem like an eternity to the band, the album is ready for public consumption. And oh my, what an album these four young musicians have come up with.
A heady air of self-assurance comes bursting from the speakers with the opening shot of ‘You Got Nothin’’ and doesn’t let up until the last strains of
‘Electric Church’ fade out some time later. Propelled forward by the pounding drumwork of Max Newsome, this is a loud album, or should that be LOUD? When he batters his kit into submission on ‘Punk Song’, the fillings in your teeth will need putting back in. But it’s not all power and force with Newsome, he also shows quite a deft touch at times, especially during the multiple changes in direction on the aforementioned ‘Punk Song’.
Then there is the small matter of the fuzz-lord sized riffs from Sean “Starsky” Berry. Whether it’s the simplistic power chords on the opening of ‘Lost In Shock’, the swagger of ‘Punk Song’, or the shimmering effects on ‘It Won’t Stop’, Berry shows great variance within his playing (as well as great maturity) and never over-plays. Alongside him on the bass is Russell “Russell” Russell (so good they named him thrice), the man responsible for the meaty grooves throughout the album, and on ‘It Won’t Stop’; a delicious smooth, subtle approach.
Fronting Sky Valley Mistress is vocalist Kayley “Hell Kitten” Davies, and god-dam she has a set of pipes on her. A hugely atmospheric voice that instantly snares the listener and wraps them up with her warm, authentic tones. Davies has the kind of voice that stops you in your tracks and demands your attention. Check out her bluesy, sultry vocals on ‘It Won’t Stop’, or the heady, swirling tones on the ten minute-plus mind-blowing ‘Blue Desert’. This is a young vocalist that stands out from the pack, and one who constantly surprises with what she comes up with next.
‘Faithless Rituals’ is an album best approached in one sitting, after ‘Skull & Pistons’ lifts you up, ‘Blue Desert’ brings you back down again, before taking you to new plains as it spreads it’s wings over eleven minutes. There is so much going on in the background that the best listening experience can be found by lying in a darkened room with a pair of cans on. Crank it up though, and listen to arguably one of the UK’s best kept secrets, but hopefully not a secret for much longer. As fresh and imaginative a debut album as you are likely to hear this year.
Available March 20th on multiple formats, pre-order information here.
Review – Dave