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Reverend Bizarre are a curious case for me, because on the one hand I enjoy their aesthetic and sound. They have all the right pieces of the puzzle, that’s for sure…they have a great old school guitar tone, cool deep vocals intoning lyrics about witches and demons and funerals, and most of all, riffs that sound like Black Sabbath on a drug-fueled rampage, which is the mark of any good doom album, the riffs. If your riffs aren’t good, then you pretty much just become boring trudging slop, which is a stigma that Reverend Bizarre avoid pretty well. I can’t exactly say an album like So Long Suckers is boring, because it’s not – they do a pretty good job of churning out boiling, seething, sludgy doom riffage combined with the kind of mysticism that good old school doom needs, bringing to mind arcane golden sunsets over thorny, overgrown graveyards and hanging, spindly, clawlike trees that look like the hands of withering demons from the ancient past. That’s always cool. That’s the kind of atmosphere I want in my doom metal.
But on the other hand, aesthetic pleasures do not make a good album all by themselves. Reverend Bizarre’s third and final album is the result of a failed ‘five album project’ they were originally going to embark on but decided not to for reasons I don’t know and are not my place to really question. So Long Suckers is a monolithic doom record lasting over two hours and is, consequently, incredibly difficult to sit down and find the time to listen to in full. Who the fuck has the time? I get it; a lot of people don’t listen to albums in full and just play one or two songs at a time; that’s fine. But I think the only real way to judge an album is to listen to it front to back. If you can’t do that, then you have no business reviewing or talking about a full album – the band intended the album a certain way to have certain songs placed before others and after others, and the purpose of an album is to be taken as a whole – all the good, all the bad; everything. A great album is one that is cohesive and flows well to create whatever emotional meaning the band was trying to convey. In this aspect, So Long Suckers is a failure because it is simply too damn long to find any time to listen to, and if you can’t even find time to listen to it all together as one, how are you supposed to get anything out of it?
And keep in mind, I’m not speaking as a man with a short attention span here. One of my favorite albums is Iron Maiden’s The Final Frontier, and another is Symphony X’s Iconoclast - two works that are also ridiculously long. But those albums have purpose and they flow like real, genuine epics, with atmosphere and meaning to what they do – the former creates a big adventurous, sweeping vibe taking its listener through tons of different worlds, and the way the songs are set up makes it a slow-building, emotional journey. The latter is a great example of consolidated songwriting, and manages to entertain and engage its audience even over a 90-minute runtime, with the songwriting getting exhausting by the end, but in a rewarding way, with the songs arranged so that the listener never gets bored and so that you get appropriate climaxes and denouements just like a good novel or film would have. Both Iron Maiden and Symphony X understand the dynamics of telling a story and of making such a big musical adventure of an album. For an example closer to home, how about Briton Rites’ For Mircalla, an album only half the length of So Long Suckers, sure; but also one that exemplifies epic, moving songwriting and a thematic genius that ties every song together. Doom is like any genre; it works if you write great songs. Albums of any length require some kind of momentum and purpose tying them together as one; lest they otherwise become nothing more than collections of songs. A full album has to have a purpose.
I don’t get that from So Long Suckers. This is a long, slow album only because doom albums are notorious for having long, slow songs. In and of itself, this only exists because Reverend Bizarre loves doom metal, not because they’re trying to convey any larger purpose. Reverend Bizarre here take on a weirdly parodic attitude towards their genre; a loving parody, but parody nonetheless. The proclamation “Doom Metal is Dead” that they attached to this album is evidence enough of that. These guys love doom metal, that much is undeniable. They know what makes doom metal tick. But their only purpose here was making a doom metal album, not writing great songs – the doom metal genre and ideology was more important to them than writing their best material. Doom metal contains lots of long-ass songs and slow-sung vocals and trudging tempos, so that’s what Reverend Bizarre did on this album – in excess times 1000. Restraint wasn’t a concern to them. But just because they can make an album like this and go, “Hey! Look at us! We made the be-all-end-all of ungodly slow doom metal!” doesn’t mean it’s anything more than a self-referential parody of the genre they toiled in for so many years.
Just because an album has a purpose, does not mean that purpose is particularly artistic, and So Long Suckers, for all its good points, is one of the least artistic albums I have heard in the metal genre while not being out and out terrible. It has no artistic purpose beyond taking the conventions of their genre and blowing them out of proportion with the articulation of a giant wrecking ball smashing into a building. So Long Suckers is primarily a work that reacts to its genre and fans without really doing much artistically on its own. The songs and lyrics aren’t exactly lazily done, but the presentation of this whole thing, from “Doom Metal is Dead” to the songs that clearly do not have to be as long as they are, is essentially nothing but a big self-indulgent send-off to their fans and, more importantly, their own egos. Since the music on here isn’t that bad, I don’t really care if they’re doing some extravagant ego-stroking, but confusing that with actual masterful songwriting would be a grave mistake.
These songs don’t have much to do with each other, and could have been arranged in any manner and had roughly the same effect. This album doesn’t give me the feeling that it is long for any reason beyond cramming as many long-ass doom jams they could fit into one album. The flow just isn’t there. Instrumental “Kundalini Arisen” is a four minute stoner-rock jam that doesn’t particularly go anywhere and could have been omitted entirely without any great loss to the album, and songs like “Funeral Summer” or “One Last Time” didn’t have to be where they are in the album – they could have been placed anywhere else in the album for the exact same effect as they have here. There is really no logic or order to the placement of songs, which is essential for any album tackling a longer-than-average length: there has to be some kind of poetry to the way the songs flow together, which is absent on So Long Suckers, and not just because of the length. The songwriting is not arranged in a way that really sweeps or flows naturally. Everything just feels thrown together. You could rearrange these songs in any order and it wouldn’t change a damn thing.
I’m not trying to say any of these individual songs are unpleasant to listen to. Certainly they’re not, and as I said in the opening, they’re not boring either. But the economy of songwriting that a great band needs isn’t here. Sure the whole point of this is to be ridiculously long, and I guess criticizing that might be missing the point of this, but hell, just because an album HAS a point doesn’t make it GOOD. “Sorrow,” at its 25-minute length, could have easily been 10 minutes and been much stronger for it…and the opening half hour long journey of “They Used Dark Forces/Teutonic Witch,” despite the propulsive faster riffing they lapse into at the opening and close of the song being really good, could have been trimmed down by at least half of its length and been much more engaging for all that. Closer “Anywhere Out of This World” has some good riffs, but by the end it’s just tiresome. The best points of the album are the “shorter” songs, like the 11-minute drawl of “Funeral Summer.” And “Caesar Forever” is a bona fide excellent tune with its stately melodies and building riffs, with the most memorable lyric on the album: “Christs may come and Christs may go, but Caesar is forever!” That’s pretty awesome. It was also coincidentally the only song written by guitarist Peter Vicar, rather than band mastermind and vocalist Albert Witchfinder. Maybe that says something. The production is a bit weak, too, with a cool guitar tone, but everything else just sounds too hollow – everything is kind of buried by the guitars. The vocals in particular are almost buried by them, which is a shame because Witchfinder has a very agreeable deep, doomy slur to his voice that I find quite cool. Again, the aesthetics are very good on here and if wrapped around better songwriting, could have made for an A-class album.
The spirit and style they’re going for is evident, and the songs are never unsure of themselves, but I just can’t say this is something I can listen to all the time. I’m all for a long musical journey, but this is just too much and since I can’t see myself listening to it all at once very much, that means it’s not a good album for me, because a good album is one that I can listen to front to back any time, and find time for it even when I’m very busy, no matter the length or genre. Who has time to sit through this whole thing very often? Not me. In a way it’s almost pointless to even review this because, hey, you can’t say it’s boring and long because that was exactly what they intended. There isn’t really anything to “get” with this. It is what it is. Reverend Bizarre made this album because they wanted to write the biggest and most overblown doom metal album ever, but purpose and intent alone doesn’t signify a great work of art; seeing what a band meant to do doesn’t mean it worked.
There isn’t anything out there like So Long Suckers because it is about more than just the music – it is, in a way, the band’s farewell letter to their fans, and was not meant to be judged in a normal way, but here I am doing that anyway. This whole thing is paradoxically meaningless and full of meaning – it is meaningless as art because there is no point to it beyond the band basically giving the finger to anyone who tries to judge this from any point outside the confines of being a love letter and parody of doom metal, and full of meaning because it is a sort of personal farewell, flawed as it is, to the fans and to the band itself, from the band. It’s so personal that, from a different point of view, it could be considered a masterpiece for that; however the flaws are just too much for me. If you’re the kind of person who is really into this band, in some life-changing, holy-shit euphoric way, then maybe you’ll see it from the other side of the coin. Everyone else will probably agree with me on this.
Doom metal is dead. Reverend Bizarre is dead. Everything is dead, nothing has meaning and I just spent two hours of my life listening to this to review it. At least my review is a fitting metaphor for the experience of listening to the album! There is that.
Reverend Bizarre have easily nestled their way into my list of most important bands in the world, and have managed to back that up on every release. This one, while good, is not without its drawbacks. However, these drawbacks are enough for me to move it to the bottom of my RB list.
My first complaint with this album is the vocals. They're way down in the mix. Sometimes it's downright hard to hear Albert Witchfinder's soaring vocals. This is extremely irritating given that RB is a band known for the epic feel of their music. On this release, his vocals are so low that sometimes I forget he's even in the band.
My second complaint is the filler. In the context of RB, filler refers to sections of songs that are long purely for the sake of being long. "Cirith Ungol" from In the Rectory...is a long song, but the song doesn't feel long. The same can't be said for songs like "Sorrow" or "Anywhere Out of This World" on this release. The one long song on this album that completely jams is "They Used Dark Forces/Teutonic Witch", but even this could've been trimmed down a tad. This album is almost 2 1/2 long and about 40 minutes of it is needless instrumental jamming. Another song I really don't care for is "Kundalini Arisen." It's a pointless instrumental jam that sounds more akin to stoner rock, a subsidiary of doom that I cannot stand.
On the plus side, RB decided to dust off the classic "Funeral Summer" for this release, and it's about time. I was beginning to think they'd never give this marvelous gem the proper recording it deserved. In addition, there are some really fantastic songs on this album. The above mentioned "They Used Dark Forces/Teutonic Witch" I believe to be the stand out track, followed closely by "Ceasar Forever". These truly great songs really help make up for the half-hearted nature of this album.
That brings me to my final conclusion. You could just tell they weren't really feeling it anymore. You can tell they're burnt out. It's really a shame since they released some of the best doom the world has ever heard. What's more astonishing is that after this, their final release, they released a huge collection of split albums. I guess they still had a little bit of gas left in the tank.
If you're just now wanting to get into Reverend Bizarre, I would recommend working your way through their discography in chronological order, but you will definitely want to check this album out somewhere toward the end. Don't let it be your last taste of the Reverend, because the aftertaste is quite bitter.
Reverend Bizarre. Two words, which have come to mean so much to the doom scene in such a short time. Even now, there's power in a name. Reverend: we see images of stern-faced, darkly-dressed men, who have given their lives over to what they believe in. Bizarre: we see the exotic, the otherworldly, the abnormal - everything outside our comfort zone. Even the word order is significant, the noun-adjective pattern a homage to those masters of mystical mindfuckery, King Crimson. Watch out, Robert Fripp, your crown's been stolen.
As you'll probably know by now, this album is the result of a scrapped long-
term plan, and it's two hours and ten minutes long. It's a final farewell,
and Reverend Bizarre is going out with one hell of a bang.
The first track, "They Used Dark Forces/Teutonic Witch", is made up of two
songs: "TUDF", an interlude which leads into "TW" and a reprise of "TUDF".
The track begins with the fiendishly slow opening riff from the band's debut
album, then breaks into a riff very similar to that of "Woman" by Wolfmother
(a decidedly less worthwhile slab of 70s-worship, and one of the more
annoyingly overhyped bands to come out of my country), except they make it
so much more awesome: here it's pure thunder, channelled through dusty old
amps and imbued with copious amounts of "fuck you". This continues for a
good three minutes, firmly establishing that it's the final album and the
band can do whatever the fuck they want, before it speeds up, and the song
really begins. I interpret the lyrics as directed at critics and detractors,
not just of the band, but of Albert Witchfinder in his personal life. It's
scathing and spiteful, but ultimately forgiving - a "you'll never really understand" approach. "Teutonic Witch" opens over the closing notes of "Dark Forces", and is essentially what I've termed a "hate song", that most
wonderful variation on the love song which fuels the lyrics of so many metal
bands. Of course, in the Reverend's true style, it's full of occult implications. Vocally, it's less tortured than the previous song, but just as emotional - the "Bring back my heart..." section is unbelievably powerful. The track ends by revisiting the riff from the previous song, and fades out, making way for...
"Sorrow". Of all the album's tracks, this is the one that really epitomises doom metal. The first fifteen minutes follow the same tectonically slow riff, with operatic vocals and lyrics about despair and suicide. It's a little boring compared to the rest of the album, but it's a perfect example of the utterly despairing side of doom. About ten or eleven minutes from the end, however, it speeds up, and while it's definitely no more upbeat, it moves along with no nonsense whatsoever, not to mention the beautiful guitar solo. The final section of the song is one of my favourites - the first real bass solo. It's built on a simple riff, but it's spiced up with stylish flourishes. It was this album that inspired me to buy my first bass guitar late last year, and Witchfinder is definitely my biggest influence. At one point in the solo, the guitar comes back in and plays the riff a couple of times, but mostly it's the bass's turn to shine. As it finishes, the drums continue into...
"Funeral Summer". This is really the least memorable song on the album, and is structured similarly to "Sorrow", with a long slow section, then a short fast section, though it lacks much of the epic scope and power of that song. There's a nice guitar solo near the end, though, and even a bit of cowbell, without which no album is complete. Although I still enjoy this song, I kind of get the feeling they only included it to pad Disc 1 out to sixty-six minutes and six seconds, which is undeniably cool, if a little childish.
Anyway, on to Disc 2. This disc focuses less on the "Suckers" of the first disc and more on the "So Long", with each of the three real songs being, in some way, about farewells.
"One Last Time" is about going off to battle, not expecting to come back. The band is the soldier, the studio is the battlefield, and the album is the last testament to a brave warrior, a grave I'll be visiting many times in the years to come. The song is mostly bass-oriented, with powerful guitar chords ringing out over the top. It's easily good enough to justify its length.
"Kundalini Arisen" is an interesting one. A four-minute instrumental, with upbeat drumming and a grooving bass riff, with flourishes like those in "Sorrow", and an occasional scraping, squealing guitar over the top. Fun stuff.
"Caesar Forever" is a big one. It's the only song written by guitarist Peter Vicar, and it shows - the style is different to the rest of the album, without tempo changes and with less emphasis on the bass. The overall feeling is a lot more epic, too. Lyrically, it's a masterpiece - anti-Christianity from a rarely-explored perspective, one that sees Christianity as nothing more than a small cult, which will be dealt with swiftly and brutally. It's a display of arrogance rather than outrage, and very refreshing. It's also a display of arrogance on the part of the band, which, to me at least, is well-founded - trends may come and trends may go, but Reverend Bizarre is forever. The line I've paraphrased may seem a bit stupid, considering the Roman empire isn't exactly still going strong, but realise that history isn't going to forget Caesar any time soon - the legacy is here to stay. The song is grand and epic, with a great guitar solo and a great vocal performance, and the lengthy organ outro is unforgettable - the pipes and bellows strain and groan, and their mighty roar is heard across the ages.
"Anywhere Out Of This World" is the most varied piece on the album, and begins with a lengthy bass solo which is simple and unchanging, but rather relaxing, so it's a bit of a shock when the guitar comes crashing in. The song has a few great riffs, and very emotional vocals. There's another section featuring only bass and drums, only this time there are vocals as well. Lyrically, it's a suicide song, and is essentially Witchfinder's reasons for the breakup of the band - inability to cope with life, and a desperate need for release. It's absolutely heart-wrenching.
Perhaps they thought "Anywhere..." was too good a way to end the album. Perhaps they just needed a laugh. Perhaps they just wanted the album to be exactly one hundred and thirty minutes long. Whatever the reason, "Mallorca", the final track, is a two-minute piece that will leave you thinking "What the fuck?" It serves no obvious purpose, and many will see it as the most pointless piece of filler ever conceived. I reckon it's good for a laugh, and it doesn't really detract from the album much, so I'm not taking off any points.
Overall, it's an absolutely amazing album, and a great one for bassists, given Witchfinder's style of writing, almost a role reversal, with the bass playing the interesting parts and the guitar chords filling the void. Speaking of Void, the drumming is wonderful, with the bass drum keeping the beat and the rhythm being shared between the toms and the cymbals, rather than the snare and the hi-hat. This use of the cymbals, especially, keeps it sounding loose and comfortable. The tone and production is warm, rich and fuzzy, but not Electric Wizard-fuzzy, just fuzzy enough to sound vintage.
In the end, every aspect of this album, from the title to the lyrics, cries out "Fuck you, we're leaving, here's something to remember us by." It's arrogant, self-indulgent, but ultimately endearing, and it's an album I'll never forget.
Two CDs. One hundred and thirty minutes. Only one Reverend Bizarre.
Well, it’s time to take this album down a notch or twelve, this isn’t perfect and this certainly isn’t the best album Reverend Bizarre have done, it pails in comparison to ‘In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend’ and ‘Crush the Insects’. It seems other reviewers are seemingly blind fanboys incapable of recognising this album as, for the most part, an exercise in banal and merely long for the sake of it doom metal.
Now I won’t doubt that this isn’t true doom metal, it’s very true…to the point of simply becoming unimaginative and bland. These songs are long but what’s the point if they don’t go anywhere? Ok some good riffs, but they are dragged out for 10 minutes or more, what happened to songs that develop and maintain interest? Well apparently it doesn’t matter anymore as long as it's long and derivative of every other doom band before you. The previous two Reverend Bizarre full length releases were exceptionally long but they also had far more memorable moments than this frankly turgid piece of work.
However, it’s not all bad, in fact around 45 minutes of this album is fantastic and some of the best songs the band ever did. ‘They Used Dark Forces/Teutonic Witch’ is a masterful piece of epic doom metal and the fact that it's more Dennis Wheatley referencing material from the band only endears it more to me (great author, you see). That droning riff at the beginning that seems to go on forever…fucking great, minimalist metal needn’t be boring and neither should long songs, because this one actually goes places! Wow, from most of this album you wouldn’t of guessed that the Rev had it in them, actual good songs. There even seems to be a touch of humour in the lyrics;
‘ I still have my wheels rolling, but the engine is old and petrol is low’. The panning riffs are also a nice touch…very old school. The occult lyrics in this song are also brilliant I haven’t actually read the novel ‘They Used Dark Forces’ so I’m not sure if they are quotations or related to the plot in anyway. The other standout one this bloated carcass of an album is ‘Caesar Forever’ which again shows the band at their best and features the harrowing refrain of ‘Christs may come and Christs may go, but Caesar is forever’ which I’m not sure I understand the meaning of but it sounds powerful, so again cracking song Gromit! But this is 45 minutes of classic doom in 85 minutes of unrelenting boring shite and as much as I hate to bring metal down to strictly numerical terms that’s not a good ratio by any means.
Another positive is that this features the bands best playing and production. The players have a loose jamming feel and the whole sound is very organic, a small victory but this cannot make up for the overall weaker quality of this album in comparison to previous works.
Is doom metal dead? Well as fellow reviewers feel this is a flawless exercise in metal, the very quintessence of doom then I fucking hope so, as the vast majority of this album is a “truer than thou” masturbatory exercise in self-indulgence. So long suckers…I hope your respective future projects are better than this shite. 'So Long Suckers' is a album in serious need of an edit, if this were say an hours worth of music I would consider it excellent. But sadly, the Reverend seems to have developed a special kind of magic that leads them to journey up their own collective arse... into the realms of absolute end-this-fucking-song-now twaddle. Get 'Crush the Insects' instead and maybe download yourself a greatly edited version of this bloated reverend.
Here it is. My most anticipated album of the year. I hate having such great anticipation when it comes to album releases - I will often over-hype them in my mind and then have an ounce of disappointment when it comes to actually listening to them. I cannot help doing this - it drives me mad. This album, however, has proven to be my saviour: as my MOST anticipated album of the year (not just any old anticipated album) I am so pleased with what I hear. Reverend Bizarre have done themselves proud. This is, I am more than glad to say, the best album of the year.
First things first, it is the best Reverend Bizarre album. No doubt about it in my mind. It has the best production, which is definitely saying something - they usually have a stellar production to say the least. Every member is at the top of his game: Pete is mesmerizing - the one song he writes (of the six) is a good choice for best track on here; Void is absolutely brilliant, his bass drum drives the riffs forward so well; Albert, however, takes centre stage for me. There are loads of bass solos (well, bass-driven sections) that are absolutely brilliant. You'll be pushed to find better bass work in a doom band. His vocals on this record are amongst the best performances I have ever witnessed. Just listen to the first (huge) track, "They Used Dark Forces/ Teutonic Witch" - his flat out screaming straight into his stunning clean wailing is spine-tingling (13:44 is a good example). His dark, preaching, haunting vocals are also spread throughout the album - his chanting in "Caesar Forever" will have you singing along like there's no tomorrow. The songs themselves are all amongst the best, and most varied (in a good way) the band has ever written. Further description will not do them justice.
I have but one gripe with this album. "Caesar Forever" has the most perfect ending to an album - and career - yet is not at the end!! Still, as has been mentioned in a below review, "Anywhere Out of This World" is more than worthy as a goodbye.
It is not the best album ever made, so it will not receive full marks from me - but it is damn close to perfection as anything can ever be (bar Ocean Machine). Understand that I am a very harsh critic, but have chosen to give this release 99% which should keep the average mark at a well deserved 100%.
Farewell Reverend Bizarre.
I am sad to see this band move on, but I must say their last effort, an epic 2 hour onslaught of doom-metal may just be their best yet; time will tell. The songs are ridiculously long, 3 of them alone over the 25 min mark, but manage to to somehow not be repetitively boring or redundant. The songs on "So Long Suckers" are heavier, slower, darker, more mournful, and longer than all of their material combined. Unlike their last album, Crush the Insects, which seemed more rockish, less serious album, and not generally as dismal. This one is all the opposite, but with keeping some of the more rocking parts spread apart this opus to keep the balance.
The production is absolutely perfect. It packs some serious low end, but with crunchy guitars and audible bass, which is played as well as ever by Albert with some nice blusy touches. He also puts out the best vocal performance of his career at the same time and seems more in control of his voice. The drums are as organic sounding as you can get.
I can't think of a single negative thing to say about this album, honestly. It's sad that they planned their own death, just as they are at the top of their game. What other band is able to get a 17 min single to top the charts of their country.