I thought that The Church would have this year off with recordings. Maybe some sideprojects and solo related stuff would surface. When this ep was announced it didn´t sound like a brilliant idea on paper. An ep to go with an acoustic tour and maybe not even for sale through the usual systems. It has to be worse than the Operetta-ep that was stretching the formula of the band quite a lot. Moon Hangs in Black was a good song but the whole business was somewhat sketchy. I didn´t mind that they churn out loose and sketchy ep´s. I thought that surely this new one wasn´t going to be a masterpiece either. How wrong was I? Very wrong it seems.
With Deadman´s Hand Ep they have invented the title song again and made a whole mini-album around it. I can´t call this release an ep, like Operetta-ep clearly was despite the length of it. This is a whole mini-album with an ending and closing. It´s not just a song intended as a single and then some random not so good songs thrown in for collectors. This has to be one of their best ep´s or mini-albums if not even the best because it´s a complete work. With all the previous ep´s, even the ones from the 80´s, there was a sense that the songs weren´t meant to be together.
Deadman´s Hand starts the whole thing. It sounds better here at least in my mind. It´s the opener that sets the mood and all the songs after it follow that lead. When it was in Untitled #23, sandwiched between warm and lovely neo-psychedelic wonders, it was a bit orphan. The black nasty sheep that wanted to go where others didn´t. It´s not the problem here. Deadman is the opener and makes no apologies for being a nasty empire that gots you by the balls. Is it me or does it sound more metallic here than it does in U#23?
Stardust feels like it has some bits lifted from Cobalt Blue but the mood is totally different. The guitars swirl ominously and Tim´s drums sound like distant machine guns. Moonshine, tombstones and hellhounds continue the grim mood of the black night. This sounds like the song has been spliced and diced together from various sources. I can´t see the band playing this together in the same room. Still it feels very natural and the twin guitar attack is so lovely here, if lovely is the right word. The twangy western guitar doesn´t sound exactly like anything The Church has released before but it feels logic. Marty (?) does a wonderful solo in the end and maybe they have that kind of solos in the vaults a lot.
The Kicker is the short and sweet interlude to make the album an album. Leverage and I Don´t Know mixed together in a sweet and short foreplay for the best song of the mini-album.
I wrote your name on the fields in the sky...
This song is so good that it sends shivers down my spine. The distorted guitar and Steve´s opening lines starts it all in a majestic fashion and you just know that this song will not let you down. Classic The Church at the top of their game. Sinister and metallic but still so beautiful. It´s no surprise by now that they can combine those elements but still this feels brand new approach. Aces and eights are dealt at the end of the song and the story of the album continues without seams in this song. Sky turns black...Just like the Deadwood in Dakota. Beautiful. Song of the year-material in my private universe.
If Deadman´s Hand and Dakota were the aces then what is left? The hand of Wild Bill Hickok had ace of spades, the ace of clubs, eights of clubs and eight of spades and the queen of clubs as the "the kicker" (a card that does not itself take part in determining the rank of the hand). So it seems that Stardust and The Gardener are the eights of the hand, although we have a small error with the linear plot here as the aces and eights were dealt at the end of Dakota. The story of Wild Bill Hickok has many different setups. Sometimes the kicker card was never even dealt before the shootout after the 4th card or it was never revealed what it was as it had no meaning for the rank of the hand. Still I would like to think that The Gardener is the kicker card of the hand as it feels so different from the others. The story of the hand is blurred just the way the real life incident happened.
The Gardener is a funny song. I don´t feel this song was made with a straight face. Tongue in cheek but it still fits with the others. Is this the first time they have something that sounds like reggae? The humour element is inevitable because even Roger Moore is mentioned just like he was in Welcome. Probably the first real life character to get a second mention in The Church songs? The metallic war western takes a turn to the southern seas, maybe somewhere beyond Jamaica.
The sleeve of the album didn´t feel so churchy to me at first sight but it´s so natural for the content. Black and menacing with aces and eights. Still the skull is made of leafs. It´s all there, the beauty and the beast of their art. Thanks for the graphics too. This is a thought out work, not just a third single off the album.
Nothing to complain about this new mini-album so far. It has given me so much more than what I expected. The Church still continue amaze me and not be afraid to reinvent themselves even if it´s just a small release in between albums. Just a third single from an album but the it is so inspired that I can´t believe it. I must still ask what have they been thinking with the limited release of this gem? Most bands would give their body parts in exchange to be able to create works of art like this. I feel proud to say that my heroes make this level of stuff when they want to even if it´s not a major release. I also feel lucky to have chosen a band that keeps on giving with their every release. Still I feel sad that so few people will hear this. There are a lot of people who only listen the albums and they are going to miss this one. It feels like sad waste because this is a solid add to their discography.
Ugh, I have spoken. Empires got me by the balls.