What great challenge lies in the embrace of darkness when each of us is so capable of unfathomable acts of ruin? To do so isn’t just a matter of flipping a switch, teasing out death and toying with the edges of The End for entertainment but, it is instead an act of boldness to steel the ‘self’ against fear of death that limits the mind. Magick, wonder, frailty and sweetly vintage heavy psychedelic rock majesty all appear to reignite Berlin, Germany founded trio Kadavar toward new depths and new heights alike on this their fifth and darkest full-length, ‘For the Dead Travel Fast’. Here the catchy existential mesmerism of ‘Rough Times’ (2017) washes away, flapping open great leathered bat wings and spraying a grand psychedelic shower of signature heavy riffs and creeping doom rock that is yet unmistakably Kadavar at their most alluringly tenebrous.
Consider ‘For the Dead Travel Fast’ a non-traditional vintage, a dark and scraggly bottle of potentially poisonous wine with the date worn off of a label indicating a vineyard in some lost corner of Romania. That is in fact Castle Bran on the cover of Kadavar‘s dark operatic opus and such imagery is intentioned; This record began as a project heavily influenced by the tonality of old horror soundtracks, such as Goblin‘s synth classic for Suspiria, and although it is a wild and free-spirited psychedelic rock jam the invitation to toy with the dark forces of the occult remains ever present. While the songs suggest a warning against and an invitation unto darkness at once it is clear that Kadavar have finally stopped holding back that old occult obsession without going head-on metal in the process, mind you. If anything they’ve vaulted off the very catchy and single-focused prior record and embraced less traditional song structures, something equal parts early 70’s Hawkwind and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats in motion.
In the two years since ‘Rough Times’ the band, namely Christoph “Tiger” Bartelthave, built an appropriately vintage-gilded studio in south central Berlin which allowed the trio to self-record and self-produce ‘For the Dead Travel Fast’ to their own exacting retro-rock standards. Left to their own devices Kadavar have shown some grand prodigious vision with this record, a feat that quickly outclasses similar releases by contemporaries Demon Head and Graveyard in recent memory. The decider for the average heavy psych, stoner rock, proto-metal loving collector will undoubtedly be that early 70’s heavy rock production sound, oozing with late 60’s gear and with a few gorgeously placed warts along the way. If you’re in it for the stoner rockin’ good times and not the gloomy 70’s horror vibes I could see how some of these tracks could be challenging, particularly when things go full on spooky-Floyd (“Long Forgotten Song”) on Side B.
For sure I was geared up for this to be ‘Rough Times’ part two, (I’d bought the CD, LP and a t-shirt back in 2017) so without context I didn’t know what to think of the early Ghost-esque vibe of “The End” b/w “The Devil’s Master” that kicks off the album. This track might’ve seemed a bit sleepy initially but it ends up serving as a beautiful momentum builder when listening to the album on repeat. Wait for “Evil Forces” to jump in, though, as it’s circa ’74 Priest jam injects ye olde Kadavar kick into Side A and sets an energetically glowering boogie’d-out tone for the middle portion of the album. ‘For the Dead Travel Fast’ is an experience of immersion and heavy rock momentum where its middle act serves as a grand theatrical device that builds tension towards increasing shores of psychedelic ease. If you’re a track skipping, riff-seeking, impatient sort of listener I don’t think a cinematically vivid track like “Children of the Night” or “Demons in My Mind” could necessarily hold up to your attention span but, the payoff for those of use who can sit still and give Kadavar the benefit of the doubt is there now more than ever. That’d be a key takeaway going into a blind listen of ‘For the Dead Travel Fast’, it takes its time developing special moments that resonate a bit larger than most of their past works.
Can a retro heavy rock album so drenched in the spirit of ‘occult’ darkness avoid the residue of pulpy, comic book kitsch? Only if its contents are applicable to the here and now; Kadavar are much more serious than that and for all of the beguiling wonder and 70’s velveteen horror that fuels the dramatic tone of ‘For the Dead Travel Fast’ it is nonetheless a personal record with themes applicable to souring relationships, passion gone wrong, addiction and torrid intoxication. None of this escapes the weight of the modern world, the unhealing wounds of the here and the now but, it does all express in an ancient and mystic heavy rock format. ‘Rough Times’ had convinced me that I like Kadavar quite a bit and now this latest album (plus a great live show last year) ensure that I’ll count them among my most loved heavy psych entities for at least another several years. Very high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest my own favorite songs are “Evil Forces” and the duo of “Saturnale” / “Long Forgotten Song” but don’t miss out on the most obvious singles “Children of the Night” and “Demons in my Mind”.
Omnipresent magick. 4.25/5.0
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