A Shadowplay for Yesterdays this way well be called, but in reality a more suitable title would be something like Where Worlds Collide or Celebrity Style Mashup Vol 4, if you get my drift; It’s rare, so very rare, to get so much enjoyment out of an album that is so lacksadaisical, style wise without having to reach for the motion sickness pills and/or the airline bag. Honestly, the way this album lurches about you’d think it was suffering from severe inner-ear problems but the result – a glorious, cliché-defying melange of sprawling, scattershot ambition – is so satisfying, so edifying that its apparent lack of focus becomes one of the attributes you love most about the album rather than a tiresome drawback.
Opening with a ghoulishly unsettling spoken word piece that seems to weave the two worlds of Hawkwind and Imperial Vengeance into one, the album then crashes through some mighty impressive blasting (Prey Tell of the Church Fate) before settling into the album’s first classic, the epic A Prophet for a Pound of Flesh ,in which the band somehow manages to combine the seemingly disparate worlds of seventies pomp rock (there’s some spiffing Kansas-style violin work here courtesy of, um, Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts) classic early period English gothic doom and Killing Joke-stylee crust fury before rounding the whole thing off with some UFO –meets-Dead Can Dance madness that even now confuses (but delghts) the hell out of me. And all this in the one song – it’s a savagely exhilarating ride I can tell you.
After that, where can the album possibly go? Wisely AFOS decide to gp for the throat after all that creativity, and The Blight of God’s Acre is consequently a straight up blast of filthy black metal bile (although even here you get little prog hints of Peccatum hovering round the edges, just to remind you that this is still, however brutal, the work of higher minds). Man’s Laughter is more of the sort of stuff that’ll have you twitching nervously if you’re listening to it late at night with the headphones on, before the stately genius that is The Underside of Eden envelops you remorselessly, like a glacier bearing down on a forlorn little windswept Nordic valley; For some reason I’m thinking that this is what English prog punkers The Cardiacs would sound like if they turned their hands to black metal, it being simultaneously ravenously feral and possessed of a bucolic fragility you don’t often hear when trench coated loons gather to make merry. It doesn’t sound anything like the Cardiacs, of course, apart from Mister Curse’s deliciously unhinged vocal performance bearing some of the tortured hallmarks of Tim Smith… I guess what I’m trying to say this is unhinged psyche music that only the English can pull off this effectively, and I’m bloody loving it...
But I’ve gone off at a tangent (strange that what with what’s oozing out of the stereo speakers, filling my little corner of Canberra with its luminescent brilliance…)… and time, and the word count, are running short. Left Behind as Static returns to the seventies progressive themes explored earlier, before Curse raves himself to distraction. Next track Corvus Corona (Part One) closes with the band again re visiting that peculiar, droning motif that brings to mind UFO’s Love to Love, before the whole, whirling maelstrom of beautifully unhinged brilliance winds down, inevitably, with Corvus Corona (Part Two). An utterly compelling, triumphant album.