Not Just Religious Music
King Dude = Morrissey + Swans + Johnny Cash
King Dude are some of the most qualified spelunkers to the darkest corners of the mind. If you’re among that certain class of civilians in the world who enjoy depth to the point of peril and religiosity to the point of insanity, let TJ Cowgill show you what rock n’ roll sounds like in hell. And that’s not an exaggeration; the genre they’ve labeled themselves as online is “Luciferian,” and Cowgill references the great Beelzebub at several points across the album in a submissive respect that’s transcended fear to a level of shriveled, ashy acceptance of the mortal coil.
The first half of the album goes back and forth between a sad and gloomy folk and heavier, not-quite-metal rock. It stays consistent thematically, but the mood changes so often that it’s hard to ever get comfortable. “Who Taught You How To Love” is an un-danceable serenade to an 18-year-old actress from L.A. In her Lolita-esque love story, Cowgill is both narrator and participant. Turning on a dime, “I Wanna Die at 69” has Cowgill crooning, “I want to put myself between both of your legs / And have you kiss my lips to taste what I taste” in this guttural, drunken way that gets darker and less sober with each turn. A heavy, melodic riff amplifies the stumbling through the streets, a loaded revolver jumps in at the chorus to bring red into the King’s eyes, and then in the background, this young woman confesses, court-witness style, to the violence and Satanism of the man. And that’s just the beginning of the album.
At the halfway point of the album, demarcated by the post-punk, instrumental number “Conflict & Climax,” the music becomes slightly more poppy and, at times, experimental. King Dude have touched the lightness of pop in previous albums, but in this latest attempt, it seems as if they’ve managed to incorporate a gothic vibe. “Swedish Boys” has backup vocals faintly ooh-ing in the background, something you’d expect to find in the newer styles of beach garage or alternative indie music. Then “The Girls” comes into play, with a theatrically absurd introduction to the sound of applause. In an almost avant-garde style, Cowgill sings the first line only to be drowned out by that applause, and he pauses to tell the audience to stop before he continues. It’s a fun little trick that a number of experimental groups are incorporating, whether it’s laughter or applause or some other form of audience participation, which brings to mind a self-conscious humor usually associated with groups less involved with the dark prince.
But, let’s be real: This swaying across the bright and shadowed cracks on the face of man could put anyone in a daze. What’s great is that the band is able to lend out the stark religious motif running through the album—hedonism in the vein of nihilistic sexuality—an emotional power that conjures up all those subconscious mental states that the world’s conservatively religious parents have worked so hard to atrophy. But, if anyone’s looking to get deeper than drugs could ever take them—to see the humor in the dark—let King Dude pour black water across the pagan soil sitting forgotten in the fields of your soul. Let him baptize you in the rivers of hell and decry Jesus’ retribution. Just remember that the Devil’s river runs dry, and soon, so will you. –Brian Udall