Our Verdict: 4/5
Release date: Out now
Find it at: TEofM Bandcamp page
Find out more: TEofM official site
“Demented calliope-rock music… utterly engaging and chock full of depraved imagination. Something wicked this way comes. And they’re called The Earls Of Mars.”
What do you think it would sound like if Tom Waits had long, loud and sweaty sex with Nick Cave, whilst listening to the already genetically suspect offspring of Jello Biafra and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, resulting in a terrifying sonic mutant warrior child, as beguiling and mesmerising as it was fear-inducing and gut-wrenching?
Well, now you’ve got your answer in the jazzy, doom-laden, schlock-rock quagmire of the punk-metal sludge-fest that is the debut album from the UK’s very own The Earls Of Mars.
Theatre, drama, insanity, smoke and mirrors, dynamism, blood and guts, tragedy, comedy, awesome power; this album has it all. This is what the Beatles would have sounded like had their LSD trip turned bad, and “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” had gone from a happy-go-lucky psychedelic circus, to a b-movie nightmare gore-fest.
Song titles such as “The Astronomer Pig”, “Cornelius Itchybah”, “Otto The Magnificent” and “The Mirrored Staircase” might hint at the seething terror beneath the surface of the wares being peddled by these curious carnival folk hailing from the Home Counties, but nothing can truly prepare you for the full-on sonic assault that lies therein.
Mournful, funereal accordian, the metallic clang of a piano being pounded to within an inch of it’s life, distorted guitars that have been turned up way beyond 11, tub-thumping that would make The Muppets’ very own Animal look like My Little Pony tapping at a Disney tin drum, and a vocal assault worthy of the best of Sebastian Bach, Michael Crawford, Devin Townsend and Bruce Dickinson all rolled into one; all these elements meld together into a queasy maelstrom that is, nevertheless, utterly engaging and chock full of depraved imagination.
This is demented calliope-rock music; the theme from The Munsters and The Addams Family taken to it’s horrifying and logical extreme.
“Poor Whores Petition” is the cataclysmic opening track, exploding like the proverbial prog singularity, but shortened to a thunderous sub-three minute running time. “I am certified in the practice of delight” yelps the song’s narrator during the chorus. Why yes. Yes indeed you are.
The trip then takes off into the realms of insanity-induced psychological chicanery with “The Astronomer Pig”, but not before the beatnik jazz stylings of “The Swinger” have taken us on the journey of a potty-mouthed, free-form whirling dervish, seemingly arrived from another time and place to take a cynical crowd into a dark realm of demonic dance.
All the while as the album progresses, the sonics career from classic rock sounds, to jazz-inflected noodlings, on in to whimsical prog wig-outs, through tunnels of terrifying technical ecstasy, smack in to the blunt-force trauma of Dead Kennedys-esque punk-satire, beyond the realm of mysterious musical theatre, and are then eventually snuffed out by the haunting halloween-like howl of the instrumental coda, “Mr Osbornes’ Hazelnuts.”
“The Last Glass Eyemaker” is a particular delight, beginning as if it were a bluesy Germanic noir that wouldn’t sound out of place in Cabaret, to be sung by a busty brunette, chewing wubble-yous all the way to the Weimar. And that’s almost how it pans out, with it’s dramatic piano chords and the emotive falsetto of vocalist Harry Armstrong.
But it’s not long before the impressive breathy number has opened up into a high-pitched demonic yowl, all guitar thrash and rumbling drums. Is this really the tale of the last lunatic glass eyemaker, artfully crafting his wares for those in need? Or is it the rambling of a madman, overcome and consumed by the pain of love won and lost? Either way, the protagonist can no longer hold back his compulsive cogitations, screaming “Just one incision to place you within me. I’ll see what you see. At once it’s blinding, the darkness binds in me, as one we will be. I will not share you with this world, cause fuck you backwards!”
Legend has it that The Earls Of Mars signed their record deal in blood, “…tied up, drugged and blindfold, in the back of Candlelight Records impresario Steve Beatty’s 1977 Volvo 245DL.”
You can decide for yourself whether that tale has been embellished or not, but one thing is clear: these monstrous stories of “Monkeys in spacesuits… Jersey giants… Two-headed ganders… Spiders qualified to practice medicine and Jack the swinging sensation” will delight, confound, disgust, enchant, gratify, transport, repulse and reward in equal measure. As much as you might try, you won’t be able to take your ears off them.
Look out! For something wicked this way comes. And they’re called The Earls Of Mars.