Album Review: Death Valley Girls - 'Darkness Rains'
Death Valley Girls are an LA-based band who are capturing the essence of the 80’s psychedelia movement and throwing in a bit of grunge and scuzz for good measure, in their third album, ‘Darkness Rains’.
At the heart of the band is vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel, whose fuzz-laden, shredding guitar riffs create the perfect backdrop for Bloomgarden’s shrill chanting. ‘More Dead’ and ‘(One Less Thing) Before I Die’ waste no time in easing you into the album. They are concise, raucous and truly capture the punk spirit of Death Valley Girls’ taste for a rotating selection of guest musicians. Once the first two songs leave you trying to process where the last few minutes have gone, then comes ‘Disaster (Is What We’re After)’ to show you that Death Valley Girls are actually a force to be reckoned with. There is a hint of glam rock in the catchy lead guitar riff and Bloomgarden’s rattled voice, in the chorus, but it is the guitar solo toward the end that shows the potential of the band.
Bass guitar takes the forefront in ‘Wear Black’ and ‘Born Again and Again’, setting a moodier tone to the upbeat and raw punk sound, of the previous songs, which at times can seem as though they are taking inspiration from Psychobilly bands. ‘Abre Camino’ is a mysterious mechanical synth track that comes with a wailing guitar and a lyrical chant that has the intention of exorcism. If atmosphere is what you’re looking for, then Death Valley Girls know how to give it to you. There is a grittiness that takes shape in the resonance of layered guitars and it culminates in a dizzying build-up of that incessant drum pattern as the guitars proceed to scream at you.
Though Death Valley Girls weave their way in and out of many genres throughout ‘Darkness Rains’, there is the consistent chameleon tone of punk which is always in the periphery. In songs like ‘Street Justice’ where there is such a familiarity to the theme of the songs, this can sometimes lead you to feeling like you’ve heard them all before. Death Valley Girls continue to redeem themselves with the unpredictability of the guitar solos that are buried beneath the familiarity of the framework and the order of track listing is a very well-thought-out part of ‘Darkness Rains’. While the start of the album is laid out as if to throw you into the pit, it closes with a smooth pace, that lets their psychedelia influences take hold.
‘Occupation: Ghost Writer’, though only three minutes long, has a jazzy bass line and a leisurely riff that lets you ease yourself into the indistinguishable words that flow through your head, until finally, ‘TV in Jail on Mars’ takes you to a distant place where breathy and dreamlike vocals are repeated along a comforting bass line, as chimes tinker away in the background, to disrupt the contentment. It’s safe to say that ‘Darkness Rains’ struggles to fit into one genre, which can seem like a challenge to the new listener, but if you make the effort to give it a chance, you will be rewarded. Top tip: Listen to this album from start to finish. If you’re not hooked at first, start all over again – it gets better the more times you listen to it, and they definitely save the best for last.
Words by Tyler Damara Kelly