Various Artists, Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 03.04.14 in Reviews

A lonely, frustrated dude stuck in flyover country with his Zeppelin albums, Sabbath posters, and dog-eared Lord of the Rings paperbacks would have been crazy not to join a rock group during the ’70s. The blood-curdling cries of many such would-be wizards and true stars trapped between the two coasts howl through these mostly limited-release 7-inch sides from the Midwest and South. There are smoking chops a-plenty, too, as in Air’s “Twelve O’Clock Satanial,” with its Michigan-midnight prog-rock chill, or Stone Axe’s “Slave of Fear,” a 1971 paranoia fest featuring a triumphantly late-Blue Cheer solo. Throughout, the air of desperation is thicker than Jimmy Page’s copy of Necronomicon.

Bang your head proudly, sufferer

Delusions of grandeur fuel Wisconsin-based Junction’s chunky-riffed “Sorcerer,” whose titular magus “uses his powers to hyp-mo-tize,” and the lo-fi metal crunch of Sonaura’s “Song of Sauron.” Queasy self-consciousness is translated into the exquisitely paranoid power chords of Triton Warrior’s “Sealed in a Grave,” with its “haunted memories of murdered minds,” and North Carolina’s Arrogance, who imagine “shades of dark despair” in “Black Death.” Listeners brave enough to make it to the end of these 16 slices of primo yawp are rewarded with Hellstorm’s “Cry of the Newborn” from 1980, when an African-American trio from San Antonio brilliantly recaptured, if only for six minutes, the pyro guitar and machine-gun chill of Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies. Bang your head proudly, sufferer.