Death Trip - Madhouse [Ektro Records - 2017]
Death Trip are an experimental side project with links to seminal Finnish hardcore punks Terveet Kädet. They have been around the Finnish metal scene for almost three decades and Madhouse represents their first full length release. They have quite a reputation, described as one of the most frightening bands in Finland, they number an interesting and diverse range of influences, from The Stooges and Hawkwind, to Swans, The Cramps and Spacemen 3 all channelled through their love of horror and gore films. Madhouse takes up where the band left off with a succession of early 7” singles (Death Trip, Chainsaw Goddess, Please! Skin Me Alive), all of which were an influence on current underground Finnish legends Circle.
Scream Baby Scream is the first track on the album and begins with arpeggiated synthesizer before a more traditional rock sound joins it. Fairly standard sounding rock riffs and some fairly muscular vocals make up the general sound of this opening track. I’m not overly impressed, the performances are fine, however the music and vocals don’t really impose themselves on the proceedings and the arpeggiated keyboard seems to overlay everything. It’s not bad, just not exciting me. Blood, Blood, Blood is up next. A solid sounding doom riff kicks in, this one is instantly heavier and more in line with the classic doom/death metal scene of the 1990s. The vocals are rougher and nastier and the riff is a big ghastly slice of sludgy doom. A vast improvement on the opener. During the second half of the song the vocals descend into a series of whines and wails, sounding more like vocalist Läjä Latex is experiencing some form of hellish torture. The Feet of Jesus is up next, and I’m still not hearing all of those influences, the guitars are definitely showing the influence of Hawkwind or perhaps Spacemen 3 and there is an oppressive Swans type vibe, without really sounding like them. I would perhaps suggest hearing a hint of Ministry or Young Gods, especially in the vocal department and the drumming, but again that is perhaps more of a vie than anything else.
The Darkest Trip is up next, this is the longest track on the album at just shy of 15 minutes, and probably my favourite. Great monolithic doom riffs kick the song off and the song begins to slowly build, by the time any vocals are introduced at around 3 minutes in, the song is slowly plodding along its route, towards its conclusion. The vocals are mere banshee wails and act more as an instrument than as a voice, there are no lyrics at this point, just screams. It’s not until around the 8 minute point that we get any vocals to speak of, vocal chants that sit low in the mix and are not easily discernible offer up something quite unique and gloomy. The song takes a step down with about five minutes to go, before going all out in the heavy stakes for the final flourish. Brutal, slow and uncompromising, this is the centrepiece of the album and so unlike the songs that proceeded it, it took me a little by surprise. The title track Madhouse is the album closer, and those liquid Hawkwind/Spacemen 3 guitars are back, the vocals are mere screams, completely uninterpretable and don’t really add too much to the track. Musically the track is a half decent Hawkwind style space rock tune, but the vocal screams just feel misplaced.
Overall there are some interesting ideas dotted about throughout this release, there are some fantastic space rock guitars and whilst I quite enjoyed some of the vocals they don’t always sit comfortably with the music. The Darkest Trip represents the band at their peak for me, a fifteen minute slab of molten doom metal that rips everything else on the album to shreds. There may be an excellent sludgy doom metal band in there somewhere and I hope future releases take the band further down that route.Darren Charles