Review Summary: Pure Doom: No keyboards, synthesizers, flutes, or violins used on this album.
When Reverend Bizarre released their second album, ‘II: Crush the Insects’ you’d be forgiven for at first believing that the band had commercialised their sound.
The first track, ‘Doom Over the World’ is based on a simple, upbeat and, for Reverend Bizarre standards at least, fast gallop that sounds nothing at all like the slow, gloomy and ridiculously heavy Reverend Bizarre of the previous album and EPs. To add to your fears, the band even proclaim that they have indeed sold out by issuing stickers with the album’s CD cases stating ‘The Biggest Sell-out in True Doom’.
These songs are more similar to bands like Cathedral than earlier Reverend Bizarre but the thing is, despite being slightly more simple, they’re all very, very good. These songs do not quite match up to the dark atmosphere created by Bizarre’s epics, but despite being much easier to listen to and more accessable are still heavy and slow enough to satisfy most doom fans. The riffs are all very catchy and memorable, and this simplified approach doesn’t take away from the band’s quality, but adds another dimension to the music.
However, the album does not stay like this. After 3 of these upbeat songs, the second side of the album changes completely as Reverend Bizarre return to more familiar territory. The change is instantly noticeable. The first song of the second side, ‘Slave of Satan’, opens with a ponderous bass-line supported by rising cymbals and drums, and then goes straight into an immense crushing riff. Apart from at a few short places, the music doesn’t speed up again, but remains at a relentlessly slow pace and focuses more on creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere. Despite being so slow, it never really gets boring because the band manage to create this melancholy atmosphere so perfectly.
These songs are still quite catchy despite the tempo, but the first side of the album doesn’t really prepare for them so listening to the album all at once can make these songs sound much more boring than they actually are. Because of this it probably would have been better to put the songs in a different order instead of keeping the extremes to different sides of the album. There are still faster and more energetic parts of certain songs during the second half of the album though, which manage the retain the same crushing atmosphere, so this is only a minor complaint though and the music is always consistently gripping.
Vocalist Albert Witchfinder changes his singing style to fit with the music, switching to a more ‘epic’ singing style similar to that used by doom bands such as Candlemass. He doesn’t have the range and sometimes doesn’t quite manage to achieve this, but it doesn’t really matter as the singing still adds to the atmosphere, sounding as if it is trapped under the crushing guitars and most of the time he keeps his singing more restrained. His lyrics are quite well written, especially for a non-native speaker. Like on the EP ‘Return to the Rectory’ (where the band claimed that Christina Ricci is the goddess of doom) the lyrics are usually quite humorous, with songs like ‘***ing Wizard’ mixing quite serious, dark music with ridiculous lyrics about a wizard having sex.
As always with Reverend Bizarre, the musicianship is all excellent quality. Albert Witchfinder also plays the bass, which features prominently, creating a lot of the heaviness and also adding in interesting fills and bass-lines to keep the music alive. The drumming is also excellent. On the second half of the album it is especially impressive. While the drums are usually very sparse, they add perfectly to the music, coming in at just the right time and building up slowly. All of the guitar riffs are great and there are also some fantastic melodic solos. The songs are structured perfectly, never going on for too long, and always change before they can become dull.
Many of the songs are homages to Reverend Bizarre’s influences. ‘***ing Wizard’ especially is very similar to Black Sabbath’s classic self-titled song, only heavier. There are also many similarities to other doom bands such as Witchfinder General. Despite any similarities though, Reverend Bizarre never sound like they’re stealing, but always sound completely genuine.
Overall, ‘II: Crush the Insects’ is an excellent album. It’s not quite as strong as the debut and the 2 sides may contrast each other a bit too much but it still manages to create the same excellent atmosphere with a light-hearted humorous attitude.