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CD Review: The Black Heart Procession – The Spell

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When you come down to it, life really isn't all that bad. I mean, barring impending thermo-global nuclear war and the usual trials and tribulations of the relationship treadmill, there's a ton of great things happening and probably just outside your door.

But, like every middle-class white kid automatically churning out a raft of self-pitying and excruciatingly bad Sixth Form poetry at the age of 17, you can guarantee that, no matter how comfortable modern life is, there'll always be room for a dose of dreary Gloom Rock. This is just as well because San Diegan miserablists, The Black Heart Procession, are back with this their fifth album, The Spell.

Coming on like Nick Cave mud wrestling a particularly on-form Mercury Rev, The Black Heart Procession deliver a gloriously depressive, yet ethereal and soaring set. Front man Pall Jenkins may demonstrate a set of wavering vocals worthy of Jonathan Donohue but, where there's always the suspicion that you could punch through Mercury Rev like a wet paper bag, Jenkins brings a robust edge to the tenderness.

It's there on the ponderous countrified prog-maudlin of album closer 'To Bring You Back', rooting the track firmly to the ground when you fear it'll float off skyward. Elsewhere there's the plaintive downbeat minimalism and funereal majesty of plod-rocker 'Return To Burn', while on 'Tangled' they come over a touch Silver Mt Zion.

The only real (unintentional) downer is that The Black Heart Procession never really manages to kick out the jams, leaving the listener bristling with unfulfilled anticipation, as the rousing rocker remains tantalisingly out of reach.

Effortlessly, if blackly, – *coff* – enchanting throughout, The Spell is a none more dark album that occasionally skates close to the classic lounge-rock and smoky atmospherics of The Afghan Whigs. Gloom Rock may not be going anywhere any time soon but, when your lead proponents are as achingly wondrous as The Black Heart Procession, it's no bad thing. Grab your Moleskines people; I can feel a melancholic funk coming on.

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