Album Review: The Urban Voodoo Machine – “Hellbound Hymns”
I suppose one of the best things about being a band with as varied and unique a sound as The Urban Voodoo Machine is that they’re never in danger of repeating themselves. Hellbound Hymns is the group’s fourth album, and they still sound like as much of a breath of fresh air as ever.
Recorded against the forbidding background of the deaths of two UVM members in Nick Marsh and Robb Skipper, Hellbound Hymns sees the group in dark territory even by the Voodoos’ often sinister subject matter. Kicking in with the angry political polemic While We Were All Asleep, which sounds like something out of Barnum & Bailey’s most vivid nightmares with its circus style descending chords. It’s followed by the New Orleans style ragtime feel of Love And Addiction which muses on the similarities between destructive relationships and destructive drug habits, and the bluegrass sounds of Shattered Dreams which hides some dark lyrics beneath those sunny chords.
The highlights come thick and fast on this one from the downbeat lament of The Ghost Of My Bastard Past through the seasick ode to the grimier end of the toilet circuit that is Bucket Of Blood. Baby’s Turning Blue is an ultra-dark look at the death of a junkie and breakup lament Rusty Water is cut from similarly desolate cloth, while Let You Rot is a vicious slice of countrified anger from an abused son to his mother.
It’s the last three songs on here that give the clues to the dark genesis of this album though – some of you may remember Destiny Angel as being the standout track on Nick Marsh’s excellent A Universe Between Us solo album a few years ago, and the Voodoos do a good job of reworking it here. It’s followed by Fallen Brothers, an ode to Marsh and Skipper which starts off as a stripped-down mournful lament, but with the overall surprisingly uplifting message that we must always remember those who have left us, but at the same time move on with life and make the most of the time you have. As if to hammer home the point, almost like a funeral turning into a wake, it picks up the pace into a frantic polka finale.
Finishing things off, the acoustic and music box led Bastard’s Lullaby is almost like a more sympathetic rewrite of Orphan’s Lament from the Voodoos’ first album, and sees this one home nicely.
Given the darkness it was born from, it's to the Urban Voodoo Machine's credit that they've come up with arguably their strongest album yet. There's not a duff track on Hellbound Hymns and it's definitely one of the best albums I've heard in 2016 so far. It's rare that we give full marks to an album on this 'ere webzine but make no mistake, this one deserves it.