Sunday, September 7, 2008


The first two tracks on the Encore album are The Laymen songs (The Laymen were the precursor of Khazad Doom). The opening track Cherry Town is laid back, with a rolling bass line and harmonies. The guitar swings; the bass walks simply and pleasingly; the vocals slide over the harmonies, which last the duration of the song. "Cherry Town" makes me smile.

The second and last Laymen track is Steve Yates' Love Which We Share Among Us. The music is less lyrical, but punchier than Cherry Town. There are some pleasing chord progressions to savour.

The Laymen songs set a cheerful, fanciful foundation for the slightly darker, richer compositions of Khazad Doom.

The first song attributed to Khazad Doom is amazing. The Hunters (Eadon) kicks off with a gentle, restrained instrumental lead into a brief chant. From there the song builds up, slows and builds in waves. The song makes you expect anything can happen: it builds up, then, just as you think it will boil over, it transiently cools again, and moves into an organ instrumental. I love that instrumental. It seems to be holding back great power, then losing grip, unleashes as the tempo quickens. The Hunters is a twenty-five minute song of three parts. There is plenty of Yates' organ work, but the organ is not overwhelming, as it is in The Doors. Then the organ gives way and the sound moves on to something totally different, including a fleeting, gentle guitar riff that is reminiscent of late Pink Floyd. The melodies are truly excellent. The lyrics rage hotly against the hunters of wolves and the expressive, raw vocals range from gruff screaming to calm and heartbreaking. "The Hunters" is a masterpiece that crucifies the heart.

Now we hit Narcissus (Eadon, Sievers, Yates, Hilkin): harmonic vocals well up to a manic summit, then the song sits back and lets loose. This is exuberant stuff that would be a blast to sing along very loudly to in a McLaren F1 on a lonely Italian road.

In This World (Yates) is haunting, I love this song. Listening to this, I have to ponder that violins, (and perhaps other classical instruments) are woefully underused in pop. "Nothing to fear" (music by Steve Yates, words by the band) - like several tracks on Encore, by both Yates and Eadon, sounds vaguely inspired by the Beatles.

Excerpts from Uncle Gilroy's Crazy Son words and music by Jack Eadon. This song kicks off with a counterpointed chant that is accompanied by a stamping percussion. The song fades away in an anticlimactic instrumental. It would have been much more interesting to see if the songwriter could have developed the harmonies and pushed this harder. It is excellent but, alas, too brief.

The second epic song in Encore is Stanley's Visit to Kerkle Morff (Eadon). This abstract, operatic adventure about a dreamy inventor with a desire to fly takes off brilliantly. Then, when it arrives, the chorus is catchy, TOO catchy! It is the type of hook that can end up replaying in your head for hours. There is some inspired drumming about three minutes in, then the song heads off on a tangent of harmonies that are drowned out by an overly twee icing of organ. Seven minutes in, the song changes track again, just as it gets promising. There are moments of genius, but... towards the end the music is increasingly intertwined by bursts of a crowd cheering, whistling and clapping. It's an interesting idea, but after a few listenings the crowd noises are a small fly in an excellent ointment, just as applause scars many a live album. (Encore is not a live album, incidentally). It is a fine, extremely likeable piece, but with a few tweaks, Stanley's Visit to Kerkle Morff could have been mind blowing. But that's easy to say.

Can't Find Love Alone (Eadon) is energetic but lacks the magic of Eadon's best. "Dirt" is a picturesque, jazzy instrumental by Eadon and Yates, a paragon of laid back, lingering whimsy.

The next two songs, Paper Bus and Frozen Faces, written by Yates, do not blend with the rest of the CD. "Paper Bus" has great harmonies, producing an unforced, barren beauty, a fantastic piece of song writing. Frozen Faces is less successful: the angst felt forced where it should have been heartfelt, but this song is growing on me.

Finally, there is a post-Khazad Doom track, Come with me (Eadon, 1978): a beguiling acoustic guitar number that reminds me a bit of a Nick Drake tune (except longer and with more swing). It is a more sophisticated reprise of the smile-inducing, innocent charm that typified the opening track, Cherry Town. In fact Come with me is an atom of perfection.

Overall Impressions
Contrasting the different styles of the two chief songwriters of Khazad Doom, the songs by Eadon are warm, compassionate, romantic, nostalgic and flow with beauty. Yates' songs are colder, darker, earthier and have melancholic depth. To fancifully draw on the lyrics of "Stanley's Visit to Kerkle Morff": Eadon is Stanley, the hippy, creative genius, dreaming of flying, and confounding the disbelievers by floating away amongst the Clouds; and Yates is King John, a fine and noble ally, a sovereign master upon a solid and secure throne. It is easy to imagine that the richness of Khazad Doom stems from the fusion of the two styles, and, as with any admirable band, credit goes to Sievers, and Hilkin. I know it's a cliché, but the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts is rarely truer than when accounting for the alchemy of bands.

There is an unforced manner to Khazad Doom, an aspect to them that is sincere and heartfelt. When contrasted to today's cynical music industry pap, Khazad Doom is summer wine to a thirsty traveller. Khazad Doom's music bears the corrosions of time. The music has admirers, and, as long as it is so, we may know there are pockets of taste, colour and compassion out there.

Incidentally, Jack Eadon wrote a novel about Khazad Doom, Got To Make It (Jack is an author by profession, these days).

I've not presented too many facts about Khazad Doom themselves and their history because the definitive info, more reviews plus details on how to buy Encore, is present on the Khazad Doom website.

Tracks :

1 Cherry Town (As The Laymen) (3:12)
2 Love Wich We Share Among Us (As The Laymen) (2:11)
3 The Prelude (12:18)
4 In The Den (4:32)
5 The Golden Yellow Meadow (6:56)
6 Narcsissus (5:05)
7 In This World (2:42)
8 Nothing To Fear (2:44)
9 Excerpt From Uncle Gillroy´s Crazy Son (2:57)
10 Stanley´s Visit To Kerkle Morrf (12:26)
11 Can´t Find Love Alone (2:50)
12 Dirt (1:50)
13 Paper Bus (4:01)
14 Frozen Faces (3:38)
15 Come With Me (1978) (4:13)

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