Seattle’s fiendish heavy metal wrecking crew, Dark Meditation, like their music loud, their vehicles fast, and their beers strong. You won’t find a semblance of grunge in their sound, but the anathematised spectre of the 1980s sleaze rock scene so despised in their home city makes an appearance on their debut. Combine it with the tongue-in-cheek perfidy of Venom and Mercyful Fate, and you have an album guaranteed to capture your loins as much as your cold heart.
Traditional heavy metal prides itself on spectacle and costume drama as much as its musicianship and message, yet Dark Meditation have a penchant for wrapping their contemporary social commentary in deliberate and outlandish cliché. ‘BABALON.MONEY.MAGICK’ takes the most absurd vampire imagery as a rumination on the wealth disparity of their tech-friendly city and delivers it with a delicious helping of Slayer’s ‘Hell Awaits’ for its intro. Thrash is not the main influence on this album, but you’ll hear plenty of W.A.S.P. and an abundance of filthy guitar distortion to keep things perverted. A.D. Vick’s gruff vocals throb with lustful inflections and promise a bleak future for the inhabitants of Seattle: “Young ones you will wonder/ In gleaming cities of dust/ Come beg the whip now/ For love money lust.” Er… Okay…
You’ve lost your love for music if you’re not smiling at the attitude Dark Meditation display on ‘Haunt of Fear’ and ‘Strange Caress (of the Night)’. The former explores a pentatonic stoner angle for its heavy metal theatrics, while the latter strides into hell with the occultist elan of Stälker. Black Sabbath’s iconic guitar tone and counter-culture worldview lie at the foundations of both. Sometimes, they promise to unleash a strain of punk in their music, but it’s more of an ethos than an audio component. Only on the closing title track can you detect the punchy snarl of Joe Strummer (The Clash).
It’s true that Dark Meditation are not total iconoclasts. The Seattle natives of Queensrӱche leave their mark on the dual guitarwork of ‘Nocturnal Forever’, but they’re at their most intriguing when they explore the death rock sensibilities of Christian Death on ‘Drink of the Blade’. This song mixes whammy guitar wizardry with post-punk delay effects and coalesces around a chorus of ringing fifth chords. As a successor to the bland pentatonic hard rock of ‘Desolation Days’ and ‘The Howling Wild’, it goes a long way to keeping things on track at the midway point of the album.
Though not quite an album of two halves, Polluted Temples takes its foot off the overdrive pedal towards the end, to the point where the riffs are sluggish in their palm-muting intensity and flabby in their execution. Fortunately, their catchy songwriting and absurd thrill-seeking aesthetics are strong enough to charm you when things threaten to lapse into parody. Rare are the dull moments on this record.
It might be a cathartic exercise in heavy metal fantasy, but Dark Meditation’s debut LP is fun and acerbic at the same time. Crack open a beer and start planning for a devilish night with the ladies and serpents.
Release Date: 28/01/2022
Record Label: Satanik Royalty Records
Standout tracks: BABALON.MONEY.MAGICK, Master’s Coil, Drink of the Blade
Suggested Further Listening: Stälker – Black Majik Terror (2020), Queensrӱche – Rage for Order (1987), Bewitcher – Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (2021)