Black Space Riders – We Have Been Here Before
Release Date: 21/10/22
Running Time: 01:19:09
Review by Dark Juan
Good afternoon, my lovers of the obscene and abstruse. I am Dark Juan, and I would, if I may, like to take you on a strange journey into some psychedelic hinterlands and just what my subconscious gets up to when it is left unchecked, such as when I was in bed recently as I am suffering the ravages (at the time of writing) of COVID-19 and frankly being a very bad patient. Nevertheless, laid in bed I was gripped by a fantasy of having a chariot made out of scrap metal and bits of Ford Escorts and the like, harnessed to a half-dozen extremely large and bad-tempered black dogs. My weapon of choice for this ensemble (I was clad in a bizarre kind of modern, carbon-fibre armour suit with a helmet that was cybernetically augmented. Bizarre, because carbon-fibre is utterly terrible for armour as it is too brittle) was a sonic cannon that amplified ambient sound and turned it into an energy beam. Clearly, this is all fucking mental, not least because I was supposedly fighting a race of predatory, carnivorous, human-hating and intelligent marmots.
Fucking marmots. Fucking marmots are the best my subconscious can come up with when I can adequately and fulsomely describe any manner of horrors. I am offended. So, I sought to change my way of thinking and started to ruminate about the human condition and came to the conclusion that it’s all more than a bit insane that what we regard as a person (the whole body, face, appearance et cetera) is an out and out fabrication. Considering the fact that we, as entities and thinking beings, are composed of a couple of pounds of specialised grey meat. This grey meat then pilots a bone mech from a sealed and armoured cockpit. For some reason the bone mech is coated in ablative and renewable flesh armour and perceives the world through incredibly complex organic sensors which work through naturally generated electrical signals. And even then, what we are being fed by our sensors isn’t ACTUALLY what’s going on out there, because the grey meat computer that we all really are then fucks about with the input until it can be understood…
I’m not good at being ill. Hence, I have decided to stop my stupid grey meat from thinking about stuff like even my Smellhounds are differently shaped brains piloting differently shaped mechs and instead have plumped to listen to German-based psychedelic pioneers Black Space Riders. Formed in Muenster in 2010, “We Have Been Here Before” represents the seventh offering from these intrepid Germans and to say it’s eclectic is like saying Dark Juan likes Satan, despoiling virgins and absinthe. Different forms of music and style collide, coalesce and reform in inventive new arrangements and forms – a writhing, alive, constantly form-changing and amorphous. You are just as likely to hear the influence of Leonard Cohen, or The Cure, or Talking Heads as you are The Cult or Hawkwind or Wishbone Ash. This album is a long-lasting and extremely progressive trip into the outer musical reaches of mescaline-driven heavy Psychedelia. It’s a fucking big supernova of supergroove too, clocking in at an hour and ten minutes.
Note, if you please, that I have carefully avoided the use of the word “doom” at any point in this review so far. That’s because Black Space Riders do not play Psychedelic Doom. They play something FAR MORE DELICIOUS. For example, ‘Fear No More’ could be Faith No More playing jeux sans frontieres with Mudvayne, Xmal Deutschland and Genesis with added fuzz and Blues Rock and all the bonzo amplification they could lay their hands on. ‘In Dust’ has an arrangement that would have done justice to any Siouxsie And The Banshees song, but with the added muscularity of Metal guitars used fairly sparingly and to great effect. Deftones-esque walls of noise crash headlong into gentle, swirling passages, underpinned by an incredibly powerful bass guitar.
The influences are diverse indeed. ‘Leaving The Hill’ references Eastern music in the quieter passages and is very progressive indeed with a pretty strong King Crimson vibe, whereas ‘AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGH’ is a punk-edged, bladed whirling thing of fury that takes no prisoners at all. Even synthwave is referenced in the record’s intro and especially on ‘A Whisper’, where the spartan, simple vibes of vaporwave intermix with an uncomplicated live drum pattern – think a Neue Deutsche Härte drummer playing on one of Pertubator’s quieter tracks. The bass playing throughout the album is magnificent, punching the listener in the guts and being very much a lead instrument in places and referencing the powerful, bass led sound of the early post-punk bands like Joy Division and the Sisters Of Mercy. Every song has delightful little touches, a bit of sequenced guitar creeping around under the vocals or a flourish of drums in an unusual time signature that switches and changes as you listen and try to work out where these mad German bastards are taking you next… Achingly spare arrangements give way to jazz-tinged spasmodic extravaganzas and go off into New Wave and anywhere else the band fancy taking you. However, the music never sounds contrived or forced. It is allowed to breathe, and flex, and morph in a controlled fashion.
Yes indeed, this album has totally fucked up my almost finished Album Of The Year list in annoyingly efficient fashion. My only problem is that the drums could have done with being a bit further forward in the mix. Sometimes they can get a bit lost in the full-on passages, but this is only a minor niggle because the sheer quality of song-writing and arrangement negate any demerits that this currently agog Hellpriest might be thinking about. The whole record is supremely intelligently arranged and performed, and it is a bit of a wonder that the band have managed to combine such disparate and almost exclusive influences into a unique sound that is so rich, full and cohesive sounding that you’d imagine that this strange amalgam of influences had been its own genre for decades. A universal sound that was born between galaxies, with only cold stars witnessing the birth of Black Space Riders as they crawl, fully formed but still covered with cosmic amniotic fluid, from the interior of an oxygen rich, multi-hued nebula, before maturing in the hard radiation emitted from a star as they bask in the Lagrange Point of a binary system, clutching their instruments and making planetfall just near Muenster, Germany, where they immediately set up and start playing incredibly complex, psychedelic space jams to lure in human prey…
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Das patentierte Dark-Juan-Blutspritzer-Bewertungssystem) has no choice but to award this bunch of interstellar psychonauts an utterly cosmic 10/10, man, for a truly expansive record. Nah, in fact it’s not a record, it’s a galaxy-spanning EVENT. It’s absolutely fucking GROOVY.
01. Crawling In
02. Crawling (DownWithEverything)
03. Trapped In An Endless Loop
04. Almost The Lost
05. This Flow
08. We Have Been Here Before
10. Fear No More
11. In Dust
12. Leaving The Hill
13. A Whisper
14. Queen Of Light
15. Worlds Collide Dans Ma Tete
JE – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
SEB – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion
C. RIP – Drums, Percussion, Digeridoo
SLI – Guitars
MEI – Bass Guitar, Background Vocals
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