Dee Calhoun – Old Scratch Comes To Appalachia
Release Date: 23/06/23
Running Time: 51:00
Review by Laura Barnes
What would it sound like if Billy the Kid met Cthulu? Well, I’m not the expert on such matters, but I reckon it’d sound a little like Dee Calhoun. Nicknamed ‘Screaming Mad Dee’, Mr. Calhoun has been in over ten bands, including doom metallers Iron Man and Spiral Grave. At this point, he has doom metal etched into his DNA, and if you cut him, he’d bleed molton lava. With this in mind, the nature of Dee’s solo project may be surprising at first. Ditching down-tuned distortion for shovel guitars and banjos, Dee Calhoun’s latest release is a scorching fifty minutes of devilish folk. In spirit, however, there’s a whole lot of doom influence on this album. “Old Scratch Comes To Appalachia” funeral marches its way through the saloon, leaving a trail of poisonous cigar smoke behind it.
The scene is set with ‘The Day The Rats Came To Town’. As well as being so dread-laden and groovy that you can’t help but snarl and nod along, it also doesn’t hesitate to remind you that Dee Calhoun has a set of pipes, man. Deep and raspy and capable of holding a note for a mighty long time, his voice fits this type of music well. After baring his teeth for all to see, ‘A Wish In The Darkness’ takes us into gentler, more atmospheric territory, and feels like a sombre and stoic rest by the campfire. The album also manages to avoid the all-too-common midpoint slump by placing its strongest tracks right in the middle. Fifth track ‘Conjured’ is a song that kills quietly as Dee describes watching time tick by. Terror itches beneath the surface of the steady rhythm, and the chains that rattle as the music gets quieter fool you into thinking the song is over. When Dee returns to half-sing, half-whisper in your ear and the song bursts into life again, it’s a good moment. ‘Pulse’ drags the album into heavier and dirtier territory, with some gnarly bass from Louis Stratchan. The sinister calm of the steady tempo makes it all the more powerful when Dee cries out the song’s motif: “So afraid to be alooooone!”. ‘All I Need Is One’ has a nice rock ‘n’ roll kick as it revels in a world of preachers and sinners and hypocrites – think Black Label Society playing from a haunted radio. As much as I do love the slow and stomping approach that makes up the foundation of this album, there is a little room for some more variety here, and ‘All I Need Is One’ helps to provide that. It’s a tiny nitpick, but a couple of faster moments here and there could have pushed this album from ‘Fucking Excellent’ to ‘Perfect’ for me.
As an album, there’s something very cinematic about “Old Scratch Comes To Appalachia”. From the instrumental dedication to atmosphere to the folk storytelling embedded in the lyrics, this is an album that gives you tons to explore, and with the accompanying novelettes being released alongside this album (available via Kindle Direct) there’s the opportunity to delve in even further. I do try to keep these things objective, but on a personal level: this is one of my favourite releases this year. Why isn’t there more music like this?!
‘Old Scratch Comes To Appalachia’ Official Audio
01. The Day The Rats Came To Town
02. Veracte Diese Hure
03. A Wish in the Darkness
04. New Modern World
08. Stand With Me
09. All I Need Is One
10. Old Scratch Comes To Appalachia
Dee Calhoun – Vocals, Guitar
Louis Strachan – Bass
Rob Calhoun – Percussion, Vocals
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