Review: SpiritWorld – ‘DEATHWESTERN’

The critically acclaimed BBC production The English recently brought the harsh realities of the Old American West to a whole new audience that might have balked at the idea of watching a “Western” had it not been for the involvement of A-list actor Emily Blunt. While it is kinda funny reading some of the comments that class it as “brutal” (haven’t these people watched S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk? Or Christian Bale in Hostiles?), it is encouraging that an oft-misunderstood genre is coming back into focus in a way that portrays just how gritty and horrific these times were. Blood, gore, harsh brutality, cruelty – all synonymous with the period, and a perfect bedfellow for Metal music. Enter SpiritWorld mastermind Stu Folsom (still the best name, ever) and his multi-medium concept of Horror-meets-Western-meets-Metal, and the only limitations are Folsom’s own imagination, which judging by what he packs into sophomore-effort ‘DEATHWESTERN’, is as fertile as ever.

Short intro piece ‘Mojave Bloodlust’ (complete with vultures screeching overhead, freaky voiceover, and a killer guitar twang) sets the scene perfectly, and then all breaks loose with the arrival of the title track which is in ALL CAPS for a reason. Three minutes of furious death metal that will have the most ardent of Slayer fans weeping with tears of joy. Buzzsaw riffs, crushing grooves, hardcore vocals, and one hell of a drum sound; a fitting way for Folsom and his compadres to announce their arrival on platform 666 in Death Valley. Like most of the album (which clocks in at an adrenaline-filled 36-minutes), it flies past in the blink of an eye, and even with the harsh nature of the material within; comes with humongous hooks. ‘Relic of Damnation’ hints at going down a thrash metal path, but after a few moments, it takes a twist to the left with a fantastic, shimmering guitar sound that shepherds in the throaty, barking vocals of Folsom. One of those tracks that sounds better the louder it goes. And what a killer guitar groove throughout; real difficult to resist the urge to give the neck a workout (ditto ‘Committee of Buzzards’).

The incredible Thomas Pridgen (Mars Volta, Trash Talk) plays out of his skin (especially on the pummeling ‘Purified in Violence’ and ‘ULCER’ which form a knockout one-two mid-album, and the groove-tastic ‘Lujuria Satanica’) and it’s fairly easy to imagine Folsom standing slack-jawed in the studio watching the world-class drummer putting in an almighty performance. The light intro of ‘The Heretic Butcher’ offers a brief respite from the harsh soundscapes, but the listener is lulled into a false sense of security and before long the pedal is floored and Folsom returns with some perfect hardcore vocals. That groove from earlier? Yep, still here…along with lashings upon lashings of fast, fierce guitar. ‘Moonlit Torture’ is arguably the standout moment on ‘DEATHWESTERN’. Featuring a guest appearance from Integrity’s Dwid Hellion, it’s the most hardcore moment on the album (along with the gang vocals of ‘Crucified Heathen Scum’) and one that lingers on long after the last strains fade out.

The punchy ‘1000 D E A T H S’ brings the album to a close, and the only thing left to do is curse the fact that you missed SpiritWorld at Bloodstock Open Air earlier this year. This band, in their old-school Western suits, playing these songs in the blazing heat at Catton Park – that must have been very special indeed.

Review – Dave

Header image – Matt Schrum

DEATHWESTERN is available now HERE in the following formats:

Ltd. CD Edition
Black LP (w/ LP-Booklet & Poster). Available at all outlets
Red LP (w/ LP-Booklet & Poster) – 300 only. Available at Century Media EU Store
Yellow LP (w/ LP-Booklet & Poster) – 300 only. Available via SpiritWorld (band exclusive)
Transparent tan color LP (w/ LP-Booklet & Poster) – 500 only. Available at all outlets
Transparent orange crush LP (w/ LP-Booklet & Poster) – 300 only. Available at Century Media US Store

DEATHWESTERN Limited Edition Cassette: https://rarebirdlit.com/deathwestern-by-spiritworld-limited-edition-cassette

Stu Folsom also recently released his book Godlessness. A collection of short stories, inspired in equal parts by the western pulp of Louis L’Amour, the novels of Cormac McCarthy, and the twisted horror of Clive Barker, Godlessness is the fictional companion piece of SPIRITWORLD’s debut Pagan Rhythms (2021) and DEATHWESTERN.

Dedicated to the memory of, and edited in part by, Power Trip’s Riley Gale, who died unexpectedly in 2020, Godlessness was initially released as a limited-edition paperback.  The book is available through Rare Bird Lit.

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