Haunting, drawling and blatantly emotive, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club smoothly reinserts themselves into the musical spotlight with the release of their seventh album, “Specter at the Feast.” The album evokes not only an audible sense of grief, anger and spiritual catharsis, but also displays the ongoing maturity of the band’s notable sound and style.
The release comes three years after the death of Michael Been, Robert Levon Been’s father and former member of the ’80s rock group, The Call. He also served as producer for “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” an additional guitarist and a regular member of the band’s sound crew. With strong lyrical poignancy and swift shifts in pace throughout the album, “Specter at the Feast” clearly shows the effects of Been’s death on the band. As tribute to the late Been, BRMC released a cover of The Call’s hit “Let the Day Begin” as the album’s first single, which fits surprisingly well into the band’s repertoire.
Introductory track “Firewalker” instantly sets the tone for the album by evoking its namesake, a sort of ghostly, dragging walk into a grungy arena, accompanied by sincere cries of abandoned love. The depth of emotion revealed in song is consistent throughout the entire album, through the haunting, strained vocals of Robert Levon Been or Peter Hayes, and the echoed pound of Leah Shapiro’s drums.
BRMC conquers the sound of scorched leather in “Specter at the Feast” – aged, yet resilient; mellow, yet dangerous; the chosen texture of the persistent and pained. Heavy guitar and purposeful, resounding drums dominate the tracks. “Sell It” forces a resonant anger onto listeners, a keen transition from previous track “Funny Games,” which holds less aggression, but shares the same darkness: “I’m mad, sell it on a t-shirt/I’m living now on borrowed rage/I got God, I got the medication/I got enough to make it all go away.”
Songs such as “Returning” and “Lose Yourself” hearken back to BRMC’s earlier work such as “Am I Only,” a track from “Baby 81.” These songs offer less wailing aggression and more of a worn, weary calm. Pacing throughout the album is dynamic, but not off-putting, reflecting the phases of emotion a listener may deal with while experiencing loss or tragedy.
Overall, the album is an excellent testament to the ever-popular blues-rock genre. The album’s sound doesn’t truly reach for anything new or beyond what the band has already done, instead remaining pointedly true to the essence of BRMC. The effort of the band and collection of new tracks on “Specter at the Feast” is sure not to disappoint fans, both old and new.
Speakeasy rating: A-
“Specter at the Feast”
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Recommended tracks: “Teenage Disease,” “Sell It,” “Lose Yourself”