Science Fiction by Church of the Cosmic SkullRelease date: May 18, 2018
Label: Kozmik Artifactz
Nottingham’s seven-piece Church of the Cosmic Skull revealed themselves as a ‘religious movement’ with the accompanying release of their critically acclaimed debut album, Is Satan Real? in 2016. Gimmicky or not, it was an album which embraced early 1970’s prog/psych/folk rock stylings rather lovingly and admiringly. So how do they follow it up with the potential ‘difficult second album’ pitfalls? Well, first by sticking with their self-determined independent minded DIY approach, which finds Science Fiction as a self-produced affair. Secondly, expanding out their smooth sound textures even further with the aid of piano, vintage synths, alongside their accustomed use of Hammond organ, electric cello, and six-part vocal harmonies, which all amounts to the listener being wrapped around in a thick blanket of extra warmth, aaah inducing relaxing comfort.
Church of the Cosmic Skull do have a sense of immense pride in their music, along with a strong commitment to analogue and the sound of a particular era they clearly are influenced by. The opening title track bursts out of the blocks in a confident blast of classic 70’s proggy intricate guitars fashion, while it bobs and weaves between varying tempos and stylings. The chorus makes full use of their six part harmonies and gives the song a Jethro Tull (minus flute) crossed with Meat Loaf vibe. The Jim Steinman produced era Meat Loaf styled choruses and rock-opera drama can also be heard elsewhere from time to time, especially so in the album’s lead-off single ‘Cold Sweat’.
However, Deep Purple are still a key influence as the guitar/organ riffy ‘Go By The River’ washes over you in a caressing bluesy soul duvet. It is also another example, although the whole album is immersed in them, of immaculately delivered appeasing vocals and soul cleansing background harmonies. These widescreen all-consuming melodies turn out to be key in seducing and opening-up this reviewer to the album’s charms to the extent that the occasional Meat Loaf-esque discursions can (only just) be forgiven.
The rich, smoothly sleek production remains throughout, irrelevant of Church of the Cosmic Skull’s directional swings. Whether it’s the Pink Floyd gentle swoon of ‘The Others’ or the rollicking riffy rocker of ‘Timehole (Gonna Build A Rocket Tonight)’. And I’m sure Neil Young would appreciate and approve of the slow mid-tempo shuffle and the sway in the breeze gospel choir melodies in ‘The Cards That You’re Playing’. While the sublime album closer ‘The Devil Again’ culminates in some fine organ playing over the top of a crescending fuzz guitar finish.
Science Fiction is a sumptuous sounding album bathed in analogue Radox. So much so that Church of the Cosmic Skull have created a hangover soother (tried, tested and quality control stamp approved by this reviewer) to go with the paracetamol, and feet up on the sofa. If E.L.O, Deep Purple, Neil Young, Queen, Dark side of the Moon era Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, and indeed Meat Loaf floats your boat then this could be your album of the year. This is no carbon copy of the above bands but instead finds Church of the Cosmic Skull intelligently flexing out their sound even further. It is most certainly an album lovingly created for the warm sound which only the spinning of vinyl can indeed deliver.