Monday, October 3, 2011

Gideon Smith & the Dixie Damned - 30 Weight

Through the mist . . . hiding at the end of the alley.  Moonlight reflecting off the rain-soaked streets, illuminating dark corners of the gothic southern night.  Haze swirls around the erected crucifixes topping the tombstones.  Stone angels look on, hiding from the penetrating eyes of the gargoyles.

A pulse vibrates.  Heavy.  Intensifying.   Terrifying.

Something stirs in the netherlands.  The mist parts and Gideon Smith steps forward, six-string slung over his shoulders like a shotgun.  The Dixie Damned join in his wake like a sheriff's posse.  Guns are drawn.  Violence is due.

30 Weight may only be Gideon's third official full length release, but the man is already a legend, worthy of his own tribute album that showcased the exquisiteness of his songwriting.  An outlaw martial artist riding his iron horse into the horizon, the North Carolina native mixes Cult psychedelia, Sabbath occult riffery, and southern rock into his entirely unique blend of netherworld gothic heaviness.  Dust explodes under the weight of his boots.  Skeleton's run and hide as he rides into town.  God-fearing folk start praying . . . to no effect.  The legend has arrived. 

Still, knowing the man's music as well as I do, I wasn't prepared for the full glory of 30 Weight.  All dispassionate music writing goes out the window here.   This is a fucking amazing album.  Without a doubt the monster in Gideon's catalog, and a true triumph of sludgy Gothic rock.   30 Weight is a testament of crushingly heavy riffs, monstrous bone-shattering groove, eerie bluesy boogie, and unearthly tone.  And by tone I mean mood, imagery, tenor.  Feel the cold, blood-sucking breath of your master bearing down on your neck, cause Gideon is the resurrected spirit of every southern outlaw ever hung at the crack of dawn, crawling back out of the swampy delta cemetery ready to rock havoc upon your town. 

And it's all there from the very first second of the first track, "Black Fire."  A haunted moment of slide guitar echoes in the first second before the mother of all slinky guitar riffs explodes into the night sky.  Aided by the incredible guitar work of Phill Durr and the rhythm of Eric Hoegemyer, The Dixie Damned rise from the mud-caked underworld.  Gideon's voice occupies some emotional place that Danzig could only wish to reach, deep and husky, full of nuance and impossible menace.   The song is an epic to lost love, full of mournful reflection and cryptic pain.  It's real and it fucking grooves.   I honestly can't stop listening to it.

But I do, because "Ride With Me" comes next, swaggering out of the speakers like a demonic motorcycle pack on the open highway.  Without ever having met Gideon, I already know that this is his theme song.  His reason for being.   The song to one day be played at his funeral as his leather-clad and tattooed pall bearers carry his mahogany and chrome casket to it's final resting place.  This is his essence, his being, his outlaw philosophy spit out into the wind behind him without a touch of remorse.  You either accept it or get the outta the way.  Against a crushing riff, Gideon sings:

Hands on the wheel
Picking up speed
I do what I feel
Do I look like I give a fuck if you like it?

Ride with me, Baby

And I'm hooked.  I'm there, the engine growling between my legs.  I'm tattooing parts of my body I didn't even know I had.  I'm in the pack.  I'm a member of the damned.  Fuck the world, I'm riding with him.

"South" is pure southern sludge and ethereal mysticism.  A song of sweaty, sultry intensity.  The outlaw lays bare his heart.  His passion is palpable as he takes his woman into the "wilderness of our love."  Layers of guitar swoon and mingle like fluids mixing in the midst of lovemaking.  It's heavy, it's intense, it's dark.  Just the way you'd imagine Gideon to be.

"Love of the Vampire" rips through a quasi-Monster Magnet/Fu Manchu riff before launching off into a blackened voodoo rocker.  Fuzz guitar shreds through the bluesy tone while the darkness of Gideon's vocals weighs down. 

There's more, there's so much more.  A plain intensely evil, stripped down cover of St. Vitus's "I Bleed Black,"  the out-and-out riff-rock of "Do Me Wrong," a twisted acoustic version of G.G. Allin's "When I Die," and the kicking groovy haunted blues workout that is "Come and Howl."  But these treasures I'll leave for you to discover on your own.  And discover you must.  If you love rock, if you love mood, if you love blues, sludge, southern gothic, heavy guitars, texture, motorcycles, zombies and undead outlaws, you owe it to yourself to hear this album.  Buy three copies.  Give one to your preacher. Nail one above your door to let the rampaging motorcycle gangs know your allegiance and your bowing to the master.  Let them motor by your house in peace.

30 Weight is epic.  Simple as that.


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