Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Darren Michael Boyd’s smashing instrumental debut, Lifting the Curse

Like divine drums ushering us into another dimension typically inaccessible by mere mortals, the brutality of “Little Toad” is inescapable from the moment we press the play button on the track, which together with eight other opulent guitar-driven gems comprises the whole of Darren Michael Boyd’s smashing instrumental debut, Lifting the Curse

Sizzling leads assault us just shy of ninety seconds into this song, but much like the melodic thrust of strings that we find in the album’s title cut (which immediately follows it in the tracklist), the complexities of the play are only as powerful as the harmonies that they conjure up virtually on the spot. Songs like “Was it something I said?” and “Tails & Entrails” employ entirely different methods of seducing listeners into a world of infinite sonic possibilities, but through the dynamic craftsmanship of Boyd’s arrangements, they share a continuity that isn’t often found in albums of this particular variety. Darren Michael Boyd has made an instrumental LP that isn’t just a sexy offering to his fellow axe-wielders; truth be told, this record makes sense to anyone who loves an impressively fluid approach to songwriting.

Lifting the Curse opens up with the demonic string melody of “Circle of Sixes,” which, coming in at slightly under four minutes in total makes it one of the longer tunes on the LP, but it by no means feels like a bloated exercise in self-indulgence on the part of Darren Michael Boyd. One of the coolest things about this record is the fact that, while most of the tracks sound metal-inspired, there’s such a diversity to the construction of each composition that it never feels like we’re listening to one consistent formula being reapplied and modified for tempo and tonality over and over again. The blustery fuzz of a rock n’ roll swaying “This song won’t get played on the radio” is as fresh as the heavy metal thunder of “Music in the Murder House,” and although I wouldn’t necessarily say that every song here will be a homerun with the post-metal crowd, there’s enough of a surrealism bend to atmospheric ballads like “Notational Witchery” to satisfy spillover fans of Southern Lord artists.

From the eruptive, chest-beating hard rock of “The Earth is B flat” to the decadence of the progressive closing title track, Darren Michael Boyd’s Lifting the Curse is a charming instrumental album that demands a reaction out of anyone who gives it a spin, and while I wouldn’t say that it features an artist fully exploiting his capabilities in the studio for everything they’re worth, it offers us a sneak preview into what could absolutely become one of the more interesting underground heavy rock follows of the 2020s. 

Boyd demonstrates a rare talent that few of his contemporaries have been as bold as to boast in their own work in recent times, and if you’re as big a fan of guitar worship as I am, it’s about as solid a listen as you can expect to hear out of a non-mainstream LP this February.

Joshua Beach

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