Saturday 14 October 2023


Desert Psychlist has no problem with bands that bring a touch of mainstream sensibility to the Temple of Doom. a touch of melody and ear-worming catchiness can make a pleasant change from all the dankness and darkness doom usually has on offer and Italy's Soul of Salem, Claudia Martinelli (vocals/ keys): Francesco Natilla (guitars); Antonio Desantis (bass) and Carlo Perrucci (drums), are one such band. This Bari based quartet mix a cocktail of groove that is a blend of occult themed bluesy hard rock and riff heavy proto-doom decorated in clean clear powerful vocals that posses a honeyed jazziness. The band first's album "From the Hands of Witches" garnered favourable reviews from all the right quarters with many rightfully remarking on the deliciousness of Martinelli's vocals but just as many waxing lyrical on the depth of its grooves. The band return this year with a new album "Spellbook" (No Slip Records) and if you like your doom served with a side order of foot-tapping bluesy swing then take a seat at their table and tuck in.

"Ipomoea Alba", a mixture of gnarled chugging riffage and recuring guitar motifs driven by solid punchy drumming and graced with an ear pleasing vocal melody, kicks things off and has that addictive quality that once upon a time would've seen a rock song unexpectedly find its way into the lower reaches of the British and American music charts. Sadly those days are long past but if they ever did come back then it would be songs like this one that you would be hoping to hear making those radio playlists. Next song "Cursed Ground" finds Soul of Salem flexing their doomic muscles with reverberating guitar refrains crunching and thrumming over a thunderous low end bass and drum groove with Martinelli shifting her vocal to a slightly lower register to give the songs lyrics added gravitas. Fans of Uta Plotkin era Witch Mountain will find "Pitch Black" very much to their liking, the songs just above low and slow tempo has a deliciously seductive quality made even more seductive thanks to Martinelli's perfectly pitched vocal performance and Natilla's swirling dark guitar textures, both superbly anchored to earth by Desantis syrupy bass lines and Perrucci's pummelling drums. Doom and the blues have never complimented each other so well as they do on the exquisite "Bearing Madness", a song that finds Soul of Salem not only toying with elements of torch-like jazziness but also touches of languid psych, Martinelli's keys in the songs heady middle section adding an impressive haunting off-centeredness to the proceedings. "Raney Blues" does not try to disguise itself as anything other than what it is and that is a heavy blues played in a similar style to Led Zeppelin's version of Memphis Minnie's "When The Levee Breaks", sans the sliding guitars. Next track "Doomsday" finds Natilla and Desantis swapping instruments on another Zeppelin-esque blues groove, this time tinted with a little exotic eastern promise and boasting a more smooth and relaxed vocal. "Lords of Fog Island" combines devastatingly dark and dank proto-doomic refrains and rhythms with an undulating vocal to create a musical dynamic that is as catchy as it is heavy while final tune "Black Dahlia" finds Soul of Salem mixing their love of a Sabbathian groove with their love of a smoky blues and winning on both counts, a delightfully impressive finale to an incredibly impressive album.

Bands playing music of a doomic nature that has appeal to mainstream audiences are about as rare as hen's teeth and we are not suggesting Soul of Salem are the band to break through that glass ceiling. What we are saying is that IF this WAS a world where doom stood on an equal footing with the latest industry pop sensation then it would be albums like "Spellbook", with its heavy swaggering riffs, attention grabbing hooks and ear-worming melodies, that WOULD be breaking through that ceiling..
Check it out ...

© 2023 Frazer Jones

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