Review: Twin Temple – ‘God Is Dead’

Developed in the United States post-World War II, Doo-wop was an early form of rhythm and blues music that sprung up on the stoops and street corners of African-American communities mainly in the large cities of the United States. Famous for its vocal harmonies as much as it was for its “nonsense syllables”“do wop de wadda”, “doo-wop, doo-wah”, “doo doo doo doo-wop”, there was also a lot of sexual innuendo in Doo-wop music with the Orioles, from Baltimore, going as far as not disguising what they were singing about and frontman Sonny Til pre-empted Elvis with his devilish gyration of the hips. The white power structure in American society saw rhythm and blues, rooted in black culture, as satanic and obscene, and considered it a threat to white youth. So, given the background, it makes sense that someone would combine Doo-wop with Satanism; and enter Twin Temple, aka Alexandra and Zachary James, purveyors of Satanic Doo-wop.

Although there is a gap of four years between the 2019 debut album ‘Twin Temple (Bring You Their Signature Sound…. Satanic Doo-Wop)’ and sophomore effort ‘God Is Dead’, Twin Temple have hardly been slacking. As well as the 2020 live album ‘Twin Temple Present a Collection of Live (And Undead) Recordings from Their Satanic Ritual Chamber’, the pair have also been conducting Satanic baptisms throughout the UK & Europe with Ghost, and lengthy treks through America, first with Ghost and Volbeat, and more recently with Danzig, and Behemoth. And now, finally, act II is here and it is quite special.

Recorded in Mono to give it an authentic touch – as was the debut – ‘God Is Dead’ doesn’t subtly offer up sexual innuendo like the originators of Doo-wop, it goes to town with it and places sex front and centre, and as Alexandra states on ‘Let’s Have a Satanic Orgy’: “You’ve never made love ’til you’ve made love to a witch.” Comparisons between Alexandra James and Amy Winehouse are quite easy – and perhaps a bit lazy – to make; similar style of music, the same bouffant hair, and the same vocals powerful and fragile enough to stop a charging rhino in its tracks. Plus, surely there has to be a hint of Elvira Mistress of The Dark in there somewhere? 8 tracks of female-led Doo-wop that Berry Gordy and Phil Spector would have been proud of. All with a Satanic edge – including sounds of a storm and a church bell tolling that begins the album on ‘Burn ‘Your Bible’.

It’s quite a seductive album, thanks to the breathless, rasping vocals from Alexandra that are packed with grit. When she plays it more traditionally on moments such as ‘(Fallin’ For A) Fallen Angel’ it does spark memories of growing up in a household full of music by so many strong female voices – Patsy Cline, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Ronnie Spector, the list is endless. ‘Let’s Have a Satanic Orgy’ has some wonderful arrangements to go with Alexandra’s empowering vocals, and the spoken word segment played out over a spooky guitar sound is spine-tingly good, with special mention to the final line of “Six-six-six” where back in the day it would have been “Cha-cha-cha”. ‘Black Magick’ brings more of those Etta James flashbacks, while the spoken-word intro to ‘Spellbreaker’ will always draw comparisons with ‘Leader of the Pack’ by the Shangri-Las (loving the twanging guitar from Zachary James on this one), in the same way that ‘Be A Slut’ will surely be mentioned in the same breath as ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ from The Crystals. Except The Crystals never sounded as free as this.

Ending with the title track (perhaps Alexandra’s finest vocal performance to date), there is much to admire on ‘God Is Dead’. The ability to rankle Puritans and get under their skin for one, the Satanic imagery for another, but all of this would only be window-dressing without the music to match, and thankfully the music within shines through.

Pick up ‘God Is Dead’ here. Hail Satan. She has all the best tunes anyway.

Connect with Twin Temple, here.

Review – Dave

Photo credit – Travis Shinn

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