Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Very spacey and haunting with a lot going on in each song. I guess that’s why they call it Gothic. Blister Steel is the cross section between Nick Cave and Bauhaus and Dick Dale. It is definitely a melding of some very strong country leaning with some dark and heavy alternative music. The music is quite twangy but in a very haunting sort of way. If you like cowboy movies and horror flicks, you will probably gravitate towards Blister Steel by Roselit Bone.
This is the sophomore effort of this Portland Oregon outfit. The new album was recorded at Get Loud and Taylor House studios in Portland as well as at Vallis Labs in Corvallis, OR, produced by band leader Joshua McCaslin. Blister Steel is their label debut for Friendship Fever Records.
It will be difficult, if not impossible, to listen to the music on Blister Steel and not have some vivid imagery being played in your collective heads. The music is more that just an album, it is cinematic. Each song evokes strong emotions as well as very vivid pictures. Yes, this album could easily be a movie soundtrack since it really awakens all of the senses, not just sound. The music and singing bring up emotions of helplessness, despair, and extreme mental anguish.
It is rare that a songwriter will give a glimpse into their songwriting process and the actual meaning of the songs. That is exactly what Josh McCaslin did on some of the tracks. That certainly makes it easier to interpret the songs if the writer actually gives us the cliff note version. These are Josh’s word as it related to select songs:
“Blister Steel” – inspired in part by living in the middle of dense woods of coastal Oregon and the feelings of isolation and helplessness – inspired by fiancee’s depression and PTSD– Musically inspired by Skip James, native american dances, Russian Red Army Choir version of “Volga Boatmen”
“Glint” – a song from the perspective of an abusive late-stage alcoholic, written during a time when many people close to me were self destructing in spectacular ways
“Leech Child” – Veiled expression of my views on human breeding in an age of ecological collapse – partially inspired by stories of mysterious off-the-grid cults rumored to exist in the most remote parts of Oregon
“Cast Light Doubles” – A love song about the importance of going on walks when you’re mad
At least for the four songs above, you don’t have to try to guess at what the song meaning is. The writer has been kind enough to pull the back the curtain. Like I said, this type of insight doesn’t happen all that often so it is nice when things are spelled out.
Blister Steel is definitely edgy and dark, but there is a lot of beauty in the darkness. The songs are extremely well crafted and the players are all very proficient at their respective instruments. As previously stated, this album plays more like a motion picture due to the very evocative music and strong lyrical imagery. Another potential momentous release in 2017.