Thursday, November 27, 2008

Review: Adbullah - Graveyard Poetry (2001)

Abdullah [ MySpace ]
Graveyard Poetry

Modern stoner rock has ebbed and flowed in popularity since its inception by bands like Kyuss and Sleep  in the early '90s. The genre has its roots in a much earlier time, however, as it is heavily influenced by the psychedelic, doomy hard rock of the likes of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. A fresh take on those classic sounds brought on a new popularity for a time, spawning many bands of which only a handful have managed to persist. The beginning of the current decade saw yet another wave of stoner rock resurgence, producing bands like Nebula, Priestess, and Cleveland's Abdullah. Formed in 1998 by frontman Jeff Shirilla, the band endured several line-up changes before releasing an EP and two long-players, the last of which was Graveyard Poetry.

If you're at all familiar with this particular genre, you know what to expect from Abdullah's sophomore effort - almost. Central to the band's sound are the down-tuned guitars, psychedelic vocals accentuated with ample reverb, and prominently featured bass lines. Indeed, Abdullah delivers the requisite elements in spades. What makes Graveyard Poetry stand out from other stoner rock releases are the very distinct NWOBHM influences. Sure, their sound has Black Sabbath stamped all over it, but guitarist Alan Seibert takes his riffs in a direction more reminiscent of other classic bands of that era such as Judas Priest, Saxon, and Motörhead. This results in a much more up-tempo album than one normally finds in this genre, with songs like "A Dark But Shining Sun" and "Strange Benedictions" standing out as groovy little burners. Stoner purists will still find plenty to be pleased about, as songs like "Secret Teachings Of Lost Ages" and "The Whimper Of Whipped Dogs" stick to the loping style of riffs the genre is known for. The rhythm section of Ed Stephens (bass) and Jim Simonian (drums) is a huge reason for Abdullah's successful formula. Stephens' thunderous bass adds serious force to Seibert's riffs, whether they ooze along on "Behold A Pale Horse" or leap from the speakers on "Deprogrammed". Simonian is a master behind the kit, maximizing the effect of the crash cymbals and serving up some pretty intricate beats.

I've not made much mention of Shirilla's vocal performance, but he is just as strong behind the mic as the rest of the members are on their respective instruments. The majority of Graveyard Poetry features fairly standard stoner-like vocals - plenty of reverb and overdubbing, lending a bit of a spacey and detached vibe. Shirilla contributes plenty of emotion and power, and there are times where he steps a bit outside the box to add some variety. "They, The Tyrants", for example, features harsh vocals more akin to a thrash performance than stoner rock. There's a bit of a Ministry feel to the mechanized riffs and unrestrained solo on this track as well, but the song is by no means out of place. For the most part, though, Shirilla sticks to the tried and true for a rock-solid performance.

Graveyard Poetry is an album that seemed to skid under the radar when it was released. With the genre emerging yet again thanks to bands like The Sword, however, the album has a chance to please a new crop of stoner rock fans. Abdullah is still active and releasing demos, though Simonian has left the group. The band has a wide appeal, so keep your eyes on 'em.

Track Listing
2Black Helicopters6:19
3A Dark But Shining Sun3:36
4The Whimper Of Whipped Dogs5:15
7Beyond The Mountain4:49
9Strange Benedictions7:14
10Secret Teachings Of Lost Ages4:05
11Medicine Man4:37
12Guided By The Spirit4:02
13Behold A Pale Horse7:58
14They, The Tyrants3:39
Total Runtime1:04:39

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