Album Review: Evil Blizzard - Rotting In The Belly Of The Whale
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
A decade into their profane existence, Preston’s Evil Blizzard return with their first new studio record since 2018’s The Worst Show on Earth. Boasting a line-up change that sees one of the band’s four bassists, Kav, exiting and former Hawkwind man, Mr Dibs, bringing his eccentric music sensibilities to an already unhinged project.
For those of you who don’t know – or even care – Evil Blizzard is a chaotic collective of masked individuals whose sound is built on multiple bassists and a singing drummer, who have graced the stages of festivals as diverse as Tomorrow’s Ghosts gothic shindig in Whitby, with the punks at Rebellion in Blackpool and at the Cardiff Psyche and Noise show. In short, Evil Blizzard are equally out of place on whatever bill they appear; which is the whole point of the exercise.
While Evil Blizzard’s early records were diverse, there is an identifiable link back to the post punk genre, with Everyone Comes to Church’s Are You Evil? having more than a passing resemblance to Killing Joke, the tracks on this new album finds the band treading all manner of musical byways, without becoming distanced from the core-Blizzard sound.
All Pigs kicks things off with a buzzing bassline and a repeated vocal mantra, whispered to add that additional feeling of unease and menace. It’s the sort of thing EB utilise well across this record, bringing a sense of the uncanny to their work. Perhaps the most immediate example of this is on Lullaby, which is introduced with a jangling intro, playing like a mobile over some infernal crib; it’s the kind of lullaby you might expect the Munsters’ would appreciate and the band manage to make it simultaneously both light and airy and darkly ominous.
Bad People and Pro Driver use Mr Dibs’ inclusion to good effect, adding psychedelics to the hard riffing of the former and the dissonance of the latter. The seven and a half minutes of Clouds has these elements used precisely as Blizzard, never afraid to mix up their sound, avoid falling into a trap of over-using the experimentation.
Rather, they take a multitude of ideas and try them out as the drums continue to peel out a steady beat. The over-arching fragility of Clouds’ first half is subsumed as the guitars crank up and soar, taking the introspective nature and flicking it onto its head to become extroverted and confrontational. Yet, there’s not a single second wasted in Clouds, with every note adding to the stark beauty.
Evil Blizzard utilise this strategy several times across Rotting…; on All Pigs it dispels the unsettling feel and becomes a memorably tuneful coda, while on Lullaby it’s a frenzy of guitars representing the fever-dream of nightmare sleep.
It’s not all toying with the listener, sometimes the band just crank it out, as on the sub-one-minute blazing punk of Tiny People or the hook-laden metallic title track, sounding like it’s been picked off Sabotage or a late-Nineties Marlyn Manson album. For the CD and digital listeners there’s a non-vinyl bonus track in the shape of the Gothic sounding Buried Believers.
Closing out the vinyl is the eleven-minute-plus, Darkness, which is Rotting…’s hold my beer moment when it comes to ambition. On an album brimming with ideas and intent, this track is given the time and space to develop from the chanting, pulsing, beeping beginning, through the cranking guitars of its mid-section to the frenzied finale of its closing passages.
If ever it were imagined, but Evil Blizzard have just made themselves even more uncategorizable than anyone would have through possible with Rotting in the Belly of the Whale. It’s an ambitions and demanding album while also being accessible, working equally well both driving to work and sitting and focussing on each part. Serious creative juices must have been flowing during the gestation of this record, yet it makes one wonder: as Preston is home to both Evil Blizzard and Ward XVI, what the Hell is wrong with the place?
Answers on a postcard, please.