Guitarist & Bassist for the Heathen Apostles, The Cramps, Nick Curran & the Lowlifes

REVIEWS

Chopper-Produced Phantom of the Black Hills CD Reviewed

The new Chopper Franklin produced Phantom of the Black Hills album Moonshine Bright has been reviewed by The Examiner, it received 4 of 5 stars:

Phantom of the Black Hills, one of the outlaw music scene’s favorite bands of renegade pickers, stummers, pluckers and bangers, is back with a new album on Ratchet Blade Records, Moonshine Bright. Continuing to terrorize the musical wagon trail of the current roots revival with their signature sound of doom country, frontier-core and hellbilly punk, Phantom of the Black Hills’ most recent collection of songs is as powerful and violent as the fiery blast of an old blunderbuss, with each deadly projectile hitting a different mark.

New full-length by Phantom of the Black Hills

Throughout Moonshine Bright Phantom of the Black Hills lay down some mean distorted chords, plenty of pickin’ and strummin’, hillbilly fiddin’, strong drums, and gritty outlaw vocals. The opening song, which is also the title track, is as dirty and intoxicating and homegrown as the contents of the musical barrel in which it was distilled. “Hellbetties Risin’,” the first single from Moonshine Bright, is a raw cowpunk offering with male and female vocals, is as sharp as the edge of a boot knife. “In Hell” takes a lawbreaker anthem which rides like hell for the horizon, loot in hand, putting some distance between oneself and the hangman’s noose, yet knowing full well that when the times comes hell will be one’s ultimate destination. “The Storm is my Shelter” is about as close to traditional country music as Phantom of the Black Hills get, but it is still pretty far removed from the purist idea of the genre, which is decidedly a good thing. The closer, “A Life for an Eye,” is a little different from the rest of the album in that it is garagey roots rock and dark country punk hybrid.

Moonshine Bright by Phantom of the Black Hills is available from the Ratchet Blade Records webstore here.

by James G. Carlson
The Examiner

read the review online by clicking HERE


Heathen Apostles’ “Without A Trace” 4 Star Review

‘Without A Trace’ by Heathen ApostlesWITHOUTATRACE 300
by James Carlson

Rating: 4/5 stars
September 1, 2014

If there is such a thing in the current fringe roots genre as a supergroup, it would certainly be the Los Angeles-based dark roots and alt-country band Heathen Apostles, whose participating artists include ex-members of Radio Noir (Mather Louth), The Cramps (Chopper Franklin), Kings of Nuthin’ (Thomas Lorioux), and Christian Death (Stevyn Grey) in its ranks. That is one hell of a lineup. And their collective musical output is equally impressive.

Heathen Apostles made quite an entrance on to the scene with their debut full-length album, Boot Hill Hymnal. And now, this gothic outsider country and dark roots quintet have written and released a new EP of material on Ratchet Blade Records, titled Without A Trace. This three-song release is a worthy follow-up to Boot Hill Hymnal, even though the three songs go by all too quickly at a little over ten minutes. Quite simply, this is one of those quality over quantity things.

Without A Trace opens with the EP’s title track, moving from wild Irish folk-like fiddle, a beat akin to marching drums, and punctuating strums, to somewhat of a country punk bit, all with Louth’s strong vocals. “Before You Go,” the second track, is a slower gothic country offering, with clear strumming, string picking, a beat that carries the song structure forward, subtle yet effective bass, and Louth’s voice at its most hauntingly beautiful on the EP. The Closer, “Lily of the West,” is a countrified murder ballad and arguably the best song on the release.

Read the review on Examiner.com HERE.

Preview Without A Trace HERE.


The 69 Cats “Transylvanian Tapes” 4 Star Review

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The 69 Cats Transylvanian Tapes Cleopatra 2014

Transylvania Tapes cover

Vincent Price would have loved these guys!

Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com

Gothic rock meets rockabilly? Music has had strange bedfellows before so why not? Gothabilly is a intriguing hybrid of sound that seemingly falls apart on paper but comes together for a delightful riff on the lighter side of evil. The band has some serious credentials with former Cramps bassist Scott “Chopper” Franklin and Blondie drummer Clem Burke. This is a release that is built on the “spirit” of the music as much as the music itself and includes some excellent covers of some golden oldies and pop favorites. A cult band / super group in the making? Probably!

Some of the more interesting if not incredibly fun covers include Duran Duran’s “Girls On Film” and a grooved out riff on Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” The reigning Queen of rockabilly makes an appearance on the Elvis Presley hit “She’s Not You.” A “fun” record that you can actually take seriously, there is some muscle behind the tunes and the arrangements work well and are not near as “cheesy” as something you might here from the Stray Cats. Perhaps the hidden jewel in the release is the cover of “Sweet Transvestite” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” At first you think, “no way.” You walk away loving it.

4 Stars

Tracks: People Are Strange; Sunglasses After Dark; She’s Not You; Runaway; Sweet Transvestite; Edge of Reality; Necromance For Guitar; You’re My Baby; Werewolves of London; Black Cadillac; Girls On Film; 69 Guitars; Bela Lugosi’s Dead.

Personnel: Jyrki69: Vocals; Danny B. Harvey: Guitar; Scott “Chopper” Franklin: Bass; Clem Burke: Drums.


Review of The 69 Cats “Transylvanian Tapes” on Punk Globe

 Transylvania Tapes cover The 69 Cats, consist of the vocalist Jyrki69 (The 69 Eyes), Danny B. Harvey (Rockats, Headcat) on guitar and Chopper Franklin (The Cramps) on bass, emerge with the title single of their first EP “Bad Things”. This is definitely a weird kind of supergroup, let’s see what they have created sound wise.
Kicking off this weird and wonderful journey into rockabilly cover madness, comes in the form of “Bad Things” notably from the tv series “True Blood”. From the off the distinct vocals of Jyrki69 are haunting, the guitars are very vintage sounding but make this a very good version. Think along the lines that this could be the theme to a spaghetti western instead of a glittery vampire series.
“Black No 1” by Type O Negative get the treatment next, after loving they original for many years I find myself grooving along. The creepiness seems to be intensified from the original as the female backing vocals give it a very spooky feel, I think Pete Steele would be proud of this version and be grooving with Elvira or the Munsters.
  The final track to get the 69 Cats treatment is Elvis’s “Flaming Star”, knowing how much Jyrki69 has been influenced by Elvis over the years, this seems to be a good homage to the king.

If you are a fan of the band members involved, you may either love this E.P. Or just think it’s wacky, myself I found myself wanting to groove like a cool cat and can’t wait to hear the full album being recorded in 2014.

Band shot 2014

You can read the review on Punk Globe by clicking HERE.

Heathen Apostles’ “Without A Trace” Review in DYNAMITE Magazine

Americana
Heathen Apostles
Without A Trace
Ratched Blade Records, EP (Download)
4 of 5 stars

WITHOUTATRACE 300


 

 

 

 

 

The mastermind of the Heathen Apostles is Chopper Franklin (The Cramps, Nick Curran, etc. ). They describe themselves and their music as ” … southern gothic imagery surrounded by haunting, minor-chord melodies, helmed by the voice of a evocative indigo child, unstuck in time … ” Unfortunately there are only three songs on the EP, but they are in a league of their own, Americana at it’s best. Whoever likes Bob Wayne, Hank III and friends, should get these songs.

TS
DYNAMITE Magazine
Germany

Get DYNAMITE Magazine HERE (it’s in German).


Review of the 69 Cats’ Viper Room Appearance

A review of the 69 Cats’ April 21st appearance at the Viper Room in West Hollywood has been posted, it is written by Lizzie Rose and features photos by Lexa Vonn. You can read it in it’s entirety HERE.

69 Cats

The 69 Cats are a Los Angeles and Helsinki based Gothabilly band. The supergroup consists of Jyrki 69 of The 69 Eyes on vocals, Danny B. Harvey of Stray Cats and Head Cats on lead guitar, and Chopper Franklin of The Cramps on bass. Filling in on drums the night of their recent show was Todd T Burr. They returned to their Los Angeles home, The Viper Room for their very first full-set show. I had met and seen the trio onstage on their previous visit back in October 2013, when the band was just starting to fall into place, and I fell in love. Of course, I was not going to miss it this time, so I hopped on the first bus headed to Hollywood.

Why an 8-hour bus ride instead of a 1-hour flight? I’m a hopeless romantic in all aspects of life. Something about hopping on a bus for a show just excites me a little bit more. 8PM finally rolled around, so my friend and founder of The Plastics, Lexa Vonn and I headed on over to the venue. We got there just a few minutes before the boys hit the stage, so we headed backstage to say hello and only found the lead singer Jyrki 69 there preparing to go onstage. We let him do his thing and walked out after him to watch the show from the very beginning. The band got into their own covers of classics such as, Type O Negative’s “Black No.1,” True Blood’s version of “Bad Things,” The Doors’ “People Are Strange” and even a little dark rockabilly cover of Jyrki 69’s own song “Lost Boys.”

It was pretty amazing to listen to their covers. Even a little more interesting was listening to and watching Jyrki 69 sing and dance to Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” If you’re a longtime fan of The 69 Eyes like myself, you already know what I mean. The man’s voice is hauntingly similar to the King’s, only a tiny bit less sweet. And he’s definitely got moves like Elvis, so it caught me off guard for a moment; I could have sworn it was the King himself singing that song onstage. Finally, they closed the set with their own version of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which drove the whole venue wild.

Afterwards, the band allowed fans to enter their backstage dressing room for pictures and autographs. It was a really sweet thing to watch, as not many artists allow such a thing. The after party was held at the Sunset Strip’s world famous Rainbow Bar and Grill. There, fans were able to have a few drinks and converse with the boys. Again, I found that to be really humbling and sweet of them as not many artists do those kinds of things. I personally didn’t really get to spend time with them this time around as I had previously done last time they were in town. I thought the rest of the world deserved to know how sweet these men actually are offstage. Overall, it was a great show and a great night.

You can keep up with the band on their various sites:

the69cats.com

facebook.com/the69cats

twitter.com/69catsofficial

reverbnation.com/the69cats


Heathen Apostles Record Release Show Reviewed

top

Heathen Apostles
Redwood Bar and Grill
Los Angeles
By Lucky
Photography by Mila Reynaud

Fifteen hours at the mundane didn’t stop me. Unusual cold weather for Los Angeles didn’t stop me. Killing time in Echo Park didn’t stop me. Six dollars to my name didn’t stop me. Nothing stopped me on this particular Monday’s eve from attending the Heathen Apostles record release party at the Redwood in downtown L.A.

The lot was free and so was the show, so that fit my budget just grand. Apparently the lure of free entry appealed to others as well as there was a damn good turnout on a night that otherwise could have been a death null. Seems the buzz surrounding Heathen Apostles is sweater than sugar.

Despite being close to the Heathen Apostles’ set time, frankly hoping to dig the show and then go man go, I discovered there was still another band slated before the headliners. Good thing extra added adrenaline surged my veins when I hit the fabled décor. It enabled me to rage. The band was called “Red Rose” and I do recall I liked them more and more as their set progressed. I liked the bass player. She was cute. She walked by me later as the night progressed, and didn’t even take a look. Alas, she doesn’t know I exist.

The period wear sported by various members of Heathen Apostles sparked interest amongst the barflies, kinda of an 1800’s reverend look, a bible in one hand and a gun in the other. All wore black and all meant business. Interest turned to intrigue as Mather Louth took the stage, in regalia that harkens back to times of hardship, blood and pain. Cape, hat, and a black mesh veil that disguised, made heads pivot. It was on as Chopper Franklin strummed the opening chords of “Red Brick Dust”.

Read the rest and comment HERE


69 Cats EP Gets 9.5 in Venia Magazine

Green_logo_smRelease date: 25.11.2013
Label: Cleopatra Records
Grade: 9.5/10

Grown from the roots of rockabilly with a dangerous dark omen, The 69 Cats, formation consisting of the vocalist Jyrki69 (The 69 Eyes), Danny B. Harvey (Rockats, Headcat) on guitar and Chopper Franklin (The Cramps) on bass, already with the title single of their first EP, the theme from the popular HBO series “True Blood”, whose sample was also available for those of us in the countries where iTunes is simply not working, and has dangerously stirred the rockabilly ground.

And then The 69 Cats spiced up the atmosphere and on November 25th (just in time for the first winter days in our neck of the woods) released their first EP. iTunes was not merciful this time, as well as any other service in which the residents of the United States and some European countries can enjoy in a real rockabilly treat for just under 3 bucks. How this treat came to my ears will be kept as a small, sweet secret with another thanks to the “source”, with the note that a better dose of morning awakening I could hardly have expected.

All those who think they know a thing or two on rock’n’roll know at least the basic definition of rockabilly, and the fascination by it pertinent to these musicians consisting such a lively and interesting trio is also well known, therefore there isn’t much else to do than go on a journey clocking just under 10 minutes which is opened by “Bad Things (As Heard on True Blood)”. Already the idea itself to cover the song, performed originally by Jace Everett and in the past few years came to be one of the most popular television theme songs ever is very bold, and all doubts in the originality and courage of its new version are immediatelly smitten mostly thanks to the colourful voice of Jyrki, which is additionally deepend by the genuine rockabilly sound of the good old rock’n’roll from his best days. And just when you dare to do some over-the-top dance moves in your apartment, or even office, there comes another classic.

Type O Negative – the band everything has been said about, and nothing told. Type O Negative, the legendary gothic metal band from New York, led by the legend and one of the best male baritons that ever walked the planet – Peter Steele (RIP). Besides his colourful voice and hypnotizing green eyes, Peter Steele was known for his “vampire effect” he had on his mostly female audience, and “Black No 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)” is undoubtedly one of the unforgettable traces in the legacy of the band which in many ways changed and shaped the world gothic metal scene. Yes, The 69 Cats have put their version of his evergreen on their EP, no less. Rockabilly, or more precise, darkobilly feeling here is so strong that you get goosebumps while the notes get under your skin. Jyrki is brilliant and in certain moments you get the feeling that he completely merged with the tone of voice of Peter Steele which we got used to while “Loving you – loving you – love love loving you was like loving the dead…” echoes through the room, up until that millisecond when you realise that The 69 Cats have merged with “Black No. 1”, completely naturally and simple, as if it always waited for a rockabilly attire, dark and seductive just like Peter Steele was.

And just when I thought it can’t get more bold and better, there comes “Flaming Star”. It was also the song I anticipated the most, because who can get close to the King anyhow? History writes the pages with golden letters on Elvis Presley, his life and work, through his songs and generation of fans the King lives on, and “Flaming Star” just rose from the ashes. Like the Phoenix. And shined a new shine, slightly darker, more modern, a tad more expressive. All those who know and follow Jyrki’s home band The 69 Eyes, know that he is not only a great admirer of Elvis, but certainly also one fo the rare voices that, if he were alive, would have intrigued the King himself. Always and again unsurpassed, Jyrki has come dangerously close to the always unsurpassed Elvis version (is it just because of my sentimentality and life-long connection to Elvis and his opus, you can judge yourself after listening to this version), and his tone of voice, completed with a rockabilly spirit, certainly makes “Flaming Star” the new flaming star on the pretty dark rockabilly sky.

The 69 Cats are definitely a true refreshment on the world rockabilly scene in all its nuances. Masterful playing is undoubtable, vocal brilliance present, completeness in arrangements clear and pure like freshly washed glass. All this, coupled with a very bold choice of songs that have been brought to the very top of perfection in their new attire, like in their original versions, bring the hunger for more. I hope for an album, I hope for gigs on the European soil. Because The 69 Cats are a must see in every aspect!

Rockabilly fans – open your eyes and take a deep breath – the cats are coming!

Review by: Ivana Sataić – ivana@venia-mag.net

Read the review online HERE


Rave Review For Heathen Apostles’ “Boot Hill Hymnal”

BOOT HILL HYMNAL coverBy Aiden
Midnight Calling Magazine

Some time ago, I had the privilege of reviewing Mather Louth’s CD from “Radio Noir” so I was very pleased to see the advent of Heathen Apostles. (Mather is one of my favorite musicians, and I also admire her impeccable fashion sense.) Not only does Heathen Apostles consist of Mather, Chopper Franklin, and Thomas Lorioux, Viktor Phoenix, and Luis Mascaro, all accomplished musicians, but the band also combines two themes very dear to my heart: Goth and the Old West. I have always thought that the Old West teemed with Gothic elements. Here was not the brooding poetry of the drawing room and absinthe fueled dreams , but the open menace of a strange, dangerous, and alien land. The merging of Gothic and Old Western sensibilities only seemed logical.

Several bands have taken this path, and Heathen Apostles are among the foremost. Mather’s wonderful voice and darkly charming demeanor are a perfect fit. The Old West conjures images of vast desolate spaces, grim conflicts, and lonesome death, punctuated by roughshod towns teeming with a disparate mix of sophistication and brutality. It is no accident that Heathen Apostles rises from Los Angeles, that musical Mecca of the Far West, and that their music is steeped in 150 years of history and musical lore.

“Red Brick Dust” starts evocatively with acoustic guitar and low, moaning violin. Electric guitar suddenly punctuates the song like shotgun blasts in the alleyways of old Tombstone. Vocals are pleading, yet dangerous at the same time. Late in the song, violin emerges Paganini-like with a brief, impulsive burst.

Ominous, yet rich violin opens “Dark Was the Night”. Masterful percussion drives the song with a rocky gait, and the mandolin adds a definite western flavor. Vocals are exquisitely layered, sultry and moody.

‘Forget-Me-Not” is a rollicking tune, with sharp, syncopated percussion and edgy banjo, as the violin hovers in the background, only to suddenly rise with the fervor of an assassin. Vocals are strong and confident, yet with an underlying sense of foreboding.

“Never Forever” has a very edgy, evocative intro, with guitars in tandem and violin. They are joined by low-key, yet striking banjo that reminds me of some of Neil Young’s works. Vocals are slow and expressive. The song slowly rises in volume, and vocals drop to an eerie whisper at about 3:06. Then suddenly, some wonderfully cowpunk-ish guitar erupts, and Mather’s superb vocals rise to a crescendo. There is a cool spaghetti western vibe adeptly mixed with ’80′s alternative that makes this is a very compelling song.

‘The Reckoning” ramps things up with Saturday night saloon exuberance and energy. The intro reminded me of the movie “Dead man”, and there is a vague steampunkish element somewhere here amidst the rattling percussion and gypsy flourishes. Brief flashes of fuzz laden guitar add to the demented carnival atmosphere, as Mather’s vocals are both enticing and dangerous.

“The Dark Pines” is one of my favorite songs here. With what I call a ‘Western Cabaret” style, haunting mandolin and menacing violin accompany Mather’s darkly vibrant vocals. Rousing guitar licks and driving percussion propel the song to a very ominous finish.

“It All Came Down” starts with a great little vignette of a tinny Blues song playing as the actions of various firearms are worked and clicked. Then the song launches with syncopated percussion, slow banjo, and low bass that brings a smokey Speakeasy to mind. Guitar is low and menacing, and the organ gives an unsettling edge. This is further heightened by the sardonic, yet sinister male-female vocals that deftly weave around each other.

“Murderer of Souls” is awesome! This is pure Cowboy Gothic for the 21st century. There is some excellent post-punk guitar and sparse, eerie banjo over a gripping electro background. Very edgy violin emerges, then grows stronger as the song progresses. Percussion is as rhythmic and pounding as hooves along a lonely trail. Vocals are smooth, with a nice touch of layering, which heighten the sense of desolation and fatalism that the song evokes.

“Darkness of Dawn” is more Cowboy Cabaret, with Mather’s soulful vocals, wandering violin, and sparse banjo. The percussion canters along, while the guitar adds a darkly expressive touch, especially on the moving, yet dynamic refrain. This song makes me envision a high mountain range on the horizon, with miles of emptiness behind you.

“Lonesome Whistle” is languid and moody, with an ominous carnival-like beginning. Vocals are refined, yet a bit ominous, while the guitar has a definite edge. The backing atmospherics are measured, and inexorably move the song towards a doleful finish.

“Boot Hill Hymnal” is superbly produced, and the arrangements are precise and striking. The band clearly takes their music seriously. The wonderful thing about “Boot Hill Hymnal” is that Heathen Apostles are not bound by the usual boundaries. For example, they are not just a Gothic band that dresses up in Victorian and Old West fashions and makes a few literary references amid the standard doomy droning. They are not a Steampunk band. They are not a Country/Roots band trying to be “authentic”. Heathen Apostles have skillfully created their own innovative sound and vision. There is a delightful variety of musical here, including Gothic, Cabaret, Blues, and Gypsy Jazz, that is deftly bound together by the band’s dark and sometimes brooding sense of a bygone age. This is all filtered through a wholly contemporary level of musical excellency that is both relevant and unique.

This is a very fine work, indeed. I look forward to hearing more from Heathen Apostles.

Read the review HERE


Heathen Apostles’ “Boot Hill Hymnal” 5 of 5 Review on DarkestJack.com

HeathenApostlesreviewArtist: Heathen Apostles

Album: Boot Hill Hymnal

Label: Ratchet Blade Record

Released: 2013

Website: www.heathenapostles.com

It’s not often a band surprises me with something strange and different, but that is exactly what Heathen Apostles did when I heard the first verse of their debut album “Boot Hill Hymnal”. The musicians here are well known to me with vocals by Mather Louth (Radio Noir) and Chopper Franklin (The Cramps) handling the guitar. However the sound that hit my ears was nothing like this groups individual past projects. Some are calling this “Gothic Country” but I feel this is misleading. When one hears the term country, one generally thinks of modern country of the last say 20 years. Heathen Apostles sound is birthed by the music of the far past. Unlike the music of bands like Fields of the Nephilim that blend a southern country or cowboy image into the Gothic sound, Heathen Apostles transports the listeners into another time frame completely. I personally prefer the label of “Dark Roots” music to describe their morbid melodies.

The album begins it’s morbid journey of murder ballad Americana with the toe taping track “Red Brick Dust”. This song is a great welcome to the band’s sound. It’s a familiar sounding structure while introducing the listener to this new sonic world. It’s the most rock or punk groove on the album and it’s chorus hits vocal melodies that are reminiscent of the Radio Noir song “Desert Woman”. Not to contraindicate my statement from earlier. The album really descends into it’s signature style with the second track, “Dark Was the Night”. Incidentally my favorite cut on Boot Hill Hymnal. This morbid tale of the loss of a loved one quickly transports the listener into the desolate landscape of a western town in the late 1800′s. The somber tone of Mather‘s haunting vocals are at flat out beautiful. The music now filling out the sound with fiddles, guitars, and mandolin. It’s easy to close your eyes and find yourself in a dark and haunted town full of lawlessness and death.

“Forget Me Not” is a toe tapping tune that has a touch of Nick Cave‘s Murder Ballads in it. It’s a ghostly tale that really shows off the incredible song writing this group possess. Which is very evident in the cohesive nature of the whole album. This is not a “Let’s give this sound a try.” type of album. Heathen Apostles throws everything into this album to make a truly authentic experience. My mind floats thorough the dark side of the Wild West and the Civil War while listening. Mather is no stranger to creating different time periods. Her work with Radio Noir invokes a 1920′s/30′s atmosphere.

I am not going to go song by song in this review. Suffice it to say every song is wonderfully crafted and they are all worth a good listening too. However, there are a few stand out tracks for me, in addition to “Dark was the Night”. “Murderer Of Souls” is a powerful track that has a huge sound and, well, just plain rocks. I could easily see this as the theme to some dark western or a Southern horror tale. The albums closer, “Lonesome Whistle”, is a simple yet strong melody that leaves the listeners with a bleak feeling and a want of more. Then there is “The Reckoning”. Returning to the toe tapping beat this song has a huge story and sports an apocalyptic feel. Like a steam train out of control and spewing fire from it’s stack. A killer track that also has a great video, the first video from Boot Hill Hymnal.

This debut from Heathen Apostles is a wondrously crafted album that weaves a world all it’s own. It’s powerful, somber, toe tapping, and dark. This is a group distended to leave an indelible mark on the Dark Alternative scene. I am looking forward to the next offering from these macabre masters of melody. Until then I will set Boot Hill Hymnal on a loop. This is a must have album for just about everyone. Do yourself a favor and get the whole album and get lost in this wondrous world known as Heathen Apostles.

5/5

Reviewed by: Darkest Jack

Read the review HERE


Heathen Apostles’ “Boot Hill Hymnal” Reviewed at Examiner.com

BOOT HILL HYMNAL cover4 of 5 stars

The burgeoning roots revival that has taken hold in recent years has spawned a great many new bands and singer/songwriters. Out of a significant yet heterogeneous faction of them, there are certainly more than a fair number, existing as most worthwhile things do on sacred ground well beyond the borders of the mainstream, whose experimental songs aren’t exactly what a music purist would deem proper roots material. That is due in part to all of the genre and subgenre crossbreeding, or musical hybridization, as it were, by bands and singer/songwriters endeavoring to combine the roots styles of a bygone era with a number of latter-day outsider styles that have since developed throughout the scene. A reasonably new addition to the scene is the Heathen Apostles, a dark roots and gothic country band out of Los Angeles, whose newly released debut on Ratchet Blade Records, “Boot Hill Hymnal,” is a perfect example of this.

Heathen Apostles began when singer/songstress Mather Louth (Radio Noir) and seasoned punk figure Chopper Franklin (The Cramps, Charley Horse), each with a fondness for the darker side of roots-centered music, came together and conspired to develop just such a sound, though based on their very own creative visions and musical ideas. Musician Thomas Lorioux (Kings of Nuthin’) was soon brought into the fold, and baptized a fellow heathen, so that he could contribute upright bass to the project. Together, these three birthed a signature sound built on a foundation of guitar, banjo, mandolin, keyboards, bass, and vocals. Even so, like many other roots artists, the Heathens are fine with employing fellow artists throughout the scene to provide additional instrumentation, just as they had for the album. And…on evidence presented by listening to the album itself, the auxiliary instrumentation by non-members indeed served to lay down layers of sound ornamentation, and, as it were, overall compositional improvement. And that is how such remarkable songs as Red Brick Dust, Dark Was the Night (no, not the Blind Willie Johnson gospel blues masterpiece), Never Forget, The Reckoning, The Dark Pines, and It All Came Down were forged.

Both organic and mechanical, or rather both acoustic and electric, the Heathens’ sound possesses twang and distortion, eerie string arrangements and measured rhythms, finger-picking and foot-stomping, the keen low-end of the upright bass and…a host of other qualities, all of them complemented by the sultry yet haunting female vocals of the lovely Mather Louth. In its way, it is also a rather cinematic sound they have created, evoking both old-timey and present-day imagery. And the dark, fire n’ brimstone poetry of the lyrical content…lines of meaningful words which altogether prove a compass of sorts, its points pausing briefly here and there at dusty desert wastelands to the West, sprawling gray cities to the East, Heaven to the North, and Hell to the South. To get to these musical destinations, there is much in the way of sin and virtue, the saved and the damned, tragic love affairs and that which transpires before the fall, nature and artificiality, pleasure and suffering, beauty and ugliness, sanity and madness, and so on in the way that contraries pull the human heart and soul this direction and that direction. Ultimately where we end up is a mystery, however, a well-kept secret about by the haggard sisters of fate, who sit crooked in their dank and sparsely furnished cells, weave the fabric of life with gnarled fingers on their ancient looms, and to often snip the strings of providence too high or too low.

“Boot Hill Hymnal” can be inserted into the noteworthy category of today’s roots music, beside such comparable artists as Phantom of the Black Hills, Tears of the Moosechaser, Bad Luck City, Sons of Perdition, The Dead Brothers, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, Those Poor Bastards, Peter Murphy’s Carver Combo, and the like. Recorded at The Devil’s Doghouse in Echo Park, and produced and mixed by Chopper Franklin himself, “Boot Hill Hymnal” consists of ten all-original tracks of the Heathen Apostles’ dark roots, gothic country, murder balladry, and historic Americana. Some of the songs were composed by Franklin, some by Louth, but in most cases by both of them together…and they did an excellent job in that respect.

While the songs on “Boot Hill Hymnal” are inextricably bound to the present, the modern American South West, but reaches back to long gone years in humankind’s history to come across as a vintage soundtrack to the dusty Depression era, with its filthy faces and empty pockets, its tattered clothes and worn-out shoes, and infertile soil as far as the eye could see; to rattlesnake-handling preachers delivering fevered revival tent sermons while members of the congregation are moved by the spirit and flail about as they speak in tongues; to so many sickbed prayers falling from the dray and cracked lips of those stricken with consumption and nearing their ends; to painted harlots lounging in ornate parlors of brothels on the outskirts of town; to gypsy hexes and acts of six-gun vengeance; to shadowy bounty hunters on horseback, stalking their prey through the moonlight hours; to Johnson Family hobo wanderers sitting around a fire and passing around a bottle of rotgut beneath a rickety covered bridge off a dirt road somewhere in the American countryside; to battered old bibles placed religiously on bedside tables, only a few feet away from the ol’ double-barrel shotgun, and white-robed sinners waiting in line for muddy river baptismal immersions in the Deep South; carrion birds circling overhead, biding their time before descending upon a lover murdered in a violent act of passion; and the like.

That is the Heathen Apostles’ “Boot Hill Hymnal.”

James Carlson – The Examiner
Read the review HERE


Chopper-Produced Phantom of the Black Hills Record Review

Uber Rock recently reviewed the Chopper Franklin-produced, Geza X-mixed cd ENEMY! out on now Ratchet Blade Records, also available on iTunes and Amazon mp3:

Phantom Of The Black Hills – ‘Enemy’ (Ratchet Blade Records)
CD Reviews
Written by Gaz E

You remember how it was when you were a rock kid buying albums with your pocket money, selecting which ones were gonna go home with you purely on their cover art, generally finding out that they sucked all kinds of arse? Well, as the years have gone by, it usually works the other way: I look at an album cover now, sigh, and think of how much time I will waste listening to what lies inside and then trying to write something worthwhile about it, sometimes finding an unlikely gem.

Kinda happened that way with ‘Enemy’, the third album from the mysterious Phantom of the Black Hills.

Masked figures being lynched on the front cover, masked men holding banjos and big fucking knives on the back – this was going to be one of those 45 minutes that I wasn’t going to get back in a hurry, I guessed……but I guessed wrong.

With no clue as to who is actually behind the masks – I’d guess that the band is made up of the members of various other bands but I couldn’t (be arsed to) find out who on the ol’ interweb – I had no clue what to expect when I slipped the disc into my death deck; another of those ‘comedic’ stabs at a country album by someone who should know better was at the top of my list. Thankfully I was wrong again, way wrong.

‘Battle Cry’ opens the album and does exactly what it says on the tin. The Phantom is described as a hellbilly/doom country band and that’s exactly what I got….and a fine example of that curious genre chimera at that. There’s a whiff of the more cinematic moments of Rob Zombie’s newer solo material about the vocals, some Al Jourgensen too, before you remember that Al actually turned in his own attempt at this genre around a year ago; that album by Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters a bit of a mess, truth be told. ‘Enemy’ blows it away, sharp, rather than shit, shooter style.

The follow-up to 2010′s ‘Born To Gun’ album, itself following 2009′s ‘Ghosts’, ‘Enemy’ was produced by Cramps bassist Chopper Franklin and mixed by legendary punk producer Geza X (Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, The Germs), having me thinking once again that these mystery men are players in more than just the doom countryside. But I digress, it mattering little anyway – this is a great album; filthy of tongue, keenly-produced, and hugely impressive.

The album’s dirty dozen tracks fly by, making a mockery of its running time. From the aforementioned opener to ‘Read My Bible’, the album’s closing track, The Phantom and his bad pack mix traditional country instruments – the banjo, fiddle and mandolin, the secretive press release informing me, pushed more to the front than on the album’s predecessors – with distorted guitar and vocals, this album seemingly leaning more heavily on samples and loops: many prime examples of hard-hitting, controversial dialogue permeating the raw, rusty sounds of the record. “Violence is as American as apple pie” – yes, that’s a quote that we’ve heard many times before but here…it just seems right, a tight fit.

Whoever they really are, Phantom of the Black Hills cuts the throat of convention and bleeds out an album cooler than the blade of their frontman’s impressive weapon. The penultimate song on the album is ‘Call Your Bluff’ – sums it up really.

Read the review on the UBER ROCK site by clicking HERE