Albums, Music, The Revue — October 9, 2018 at 5:05 am

Death Valley Girls – ‘Darkness Rains’ (album review)

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Two years ago when Glow In The Dark was released, we commented how Death Valley Girls are “living in the wrong era”. Their brand of a rock ‘n roll – or witch rock or a really chilling version of psychedelic rock – would have won them massive battalions of fans in the ’70s and ’80s while their socially- and politically-charged lyricism would have stood out in the post-Woodstock period. As such, no one would blame the LA-based if they opted to release an album that appeased the masses. They, instead, opt to continue down the path of gloomy yet exhilarating rockers and poignant songwriting on the super-charged Darkness Rains.

The band’s third studio effort is, as expected, filled with blustery and anthemic wall shakers. The outfit, however, also demonstrate growth and progression in their sound. Subtle nuances percolate through some of the tracks while there are outright surprises. Opener “More Dead”, though, is full-blown DVG. It is heavy, edgy, and chaotic, and the approach reflects the struggles of millions of people who suffer from mental illness. The lyrics are profound and powerful, particularly when they holler:

“You feel out of place
Rather be in the grave,
Out of sight, out of the dark,
You’re more dead than alive.”

DVB forge into punk-rock territory with the blistering “(One Less Thing) Before I Die”. It is a 96-second firecracker that commences urgently and ends on an explosive note, much like the relationship front woman Bonnie Bloomgarden sings about. The equally high-octane rocker “Street Justice” is Joan Jett & the Blackhearts-like. Sledgehammer guitars duel while throbbing rhythms burst in the background, and the instruments converge to create a feverish, dance-worthy track. The song, however, is more than just a rocker – it’s the anthem for a restless generation of young people desiring change. As the band collectively proclaim, “We can be free, we can party in the streets”

With “Disaster (Is What We’re After)”, Death Valley Girls deliver the album’s centerpiece, and it’s not only due to Iggy Pop’s presence in the accompanying video. The guitar riffs blaze, and the rhythms rage with head-banging intensity. Feisty horns join the fray and add to the chaotic furnace. Then there are Bloomgarden’s booming vocals, which are backed by Alana Amra and Laura Harris. Together, they narrate a journey through what should be fantasy but is the surreal reality in which we currently live. Instead of staying idle, she incites a movement. She tells anyone that is listening that “We are the revolution!” and “We won’t surrender”.

On “Born Again and Again”, the collective return to their witch-rock roots in unveiling a spine-tingling number. The track sounds like a séance or a ritual that will resurrect the dead, which could very well be the apathy that lingers in most of us. Meanwhile, the equally eerie and perfect-for-Halloween tune, “Wear Black”, is the final goodbye. Hallow organ and keys chime in the foreground while a grimy guitar lingers in the background, and they create the perfect tune for a dance-off between Elvira and Frankenstein. In between, Bloomgarden sings with a remorseful tone, “I can’t take you back”.

DVG scale things back on the bleak “Abre Camino”, which is like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on a hallucinogenic trip. It is, at first, a surprise, as the band’s trademark explosiveness is replaced with a more methodical and even melancholic approach. This more subdue tone, however, is short lived, as the track steadily grows until it evolves into a fierce beast. Closer “T.V. in Jail on Mars” is a hazy, psychedelic journey, where the ladies’ vocals swirl through the looping, systematic soundscape. The arrangement creates the feeling of one slowly falling into a long, deep sleep and entering a place never before visited. To a place where darkness emerges and where it reigns. This isn’t a dream, though. This is the world we live in today, and Death Valley Girls are doing their part to awaken us from our stupor.

Darkness Rains is out on via Suicide Squeeze Records. It is available for purchase or streaming here. Alternatively, the album can be picked up directly on Bandcamp.

Death Valley Girls are Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals/guitar), Larry Schemel (guitar), Alana Amram (bass), and Laura Harris (drums). A rotating cast of guests – including Shannon Lay, The Kid (Laura Kelsey), and members of The Make Up, The Shivas, and Moaning – joined them in the recording of the album. 

The band are heading out on a trans-America tour beginning this Friday, October 12th. Dates and information are available here.

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