I waited until Halloween before reviewing this compilation, if the Halloween-like names of the groups assembled here are indication this would make good holiday fodder. One thing you learn in life, unless you're truly dense: always trust your instincts. Finding Datura's A Speck of Dirt Like Death as a pretty snazzy grouping of dark artists with varying styles and trains of thought, marred only by a few throwaway mucky pups that bite upon regular listen, but ironically seem at home on this anthology when keeping the spirit of ghoul worship in mind.
The Creepy Family opens up with playful goth in My Countess Bathory. It's a very cool tune with a heavy marching tempo, crisp vocals and slithering, shrieking guitars that rock out satisfactorily. Immediately the tone shifts with Von Dooms' Coffin Rock, a dirty sounding punk jam reminiscent of early Offspring and Angry Samoans. Pound of Flesh's The Ghost of Tom has an interesting drum and bass that creates a groovy tempo to coincide with the spooky synths and subliminal vocals that are nearly indecipherable. Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks' Crows features in-your-face acoustic guitar with swooping pipes that switch from normal to growling, like a cowboy western crooner run afoul a Grade-B horror set. Crows treads dangerously towards novelty, but somehow maintains its savvy.
Membrane Conspiracy is damn near hilarious, sounding as if Smeagol from Lord of the Rings got tired of searching for his stinking "precious" and decided to DJ instead. The end result is silly and awkward with another tortured voice coming out of nowhere, which tweaks annoyingly. Viscous Elvis Cyst's (gotta give style points for that name) P-Funk Cemetery is a goofy but slick throwdown with a cheap organ and maniacal vocals that is so campy it deems it a near classic. The unfortunate screeching synths interrupt what should've ended beforehand as delicious cheekiness.
Black Black Caffeine's The Box, labeled as Gothic Folk, features a nice twelve string arrangement with suspect vocals that strive to be Peter Murphy in small increments. Shadow Love's All Night is a harmonious hybrid of the Violent Femmes meets The Cars with its heavy bass and synths that are close to new wave and have a welcome sound. Tragic Black's Contortionist Conformist rings all-too-true of Sisters of Mercy and The Cure with the same lumbering Goth spirit, though without the charismatic vocals. The scratchy vocals differentiate Tragic Black and are very effective for this retro alternative sound. Deatbeat's I Knew Jack the Ripper is ultra-rad with its mad-driving punk bass, a head bobber reminiscent of The Jam, Killing Joke and first-year Cure.
On the other hand, Sister Mary Shoelace's Daniel's Car is a laborious torture device, a depressing, seven-minute ode to shit that could make Jack O'Lanterns snuff their flames in sorrow with its repeated mantra of "cemetery nightmares," proving that even the dead can feel pain. Xteriphonia's Xversione is so-so darkwave with skittish vocals. The interchanging beats keep this one interesting, as if Herbie Hancock was in a flighty mood to team up with X. Black Ice's Rat-a-Tat boasts a sneaky beat, lazy bass and cool piano that rings like a lost Breeders track, tres cool. 9xDead shows major promise with Wild Women. Though the production is lax, the doom punk feeling more than compensates with great chords and hints of Slayer.
It is the final two songs that throws A Speck of Dirt Like Death off of its rails. Devo Sex's A Letter to Myself begins wonderfully with sprinkling goth keyboards that are suddenly raped by a torrid mix of screaming that smothers an amateurish attempt at beat switching. The end result is a total mess. Ob Stokkem spikes the final track with (Glycerol) Ester of Woodrosen with its dark ambience and ho-hum narration that is left to flounder in a harrowing loop of fucked-up noise. This is supposed to be a clever wrap-up to an already eccentric collection, but it leaves us on a sour note, giving a negative reflection on most of the goodness that precedes it.
All in all, A Speck of Dirt Like Death has some pretty glorious moments. It is a rare thing for a compilation to satisfy all tastes, so keep that in mind when in approaching this one. Stick around, though. There are plenty of diverse moments likely to hit the right chord. For me, this had me wanting to pull out some Misfits. "This is the ghouls' night out..."
Post: Finding Datura Recordings, 512 Lincoln Way W., Mishawaka, IN, 46544, USA