(Raining Records, cassette, digital download)
Identifying themselves by low-budget horror-movie monikers — Black Jack Cassidy, Finch, Cottonmouth and Chainsaw — the members of the experimental industrial-rock quartet Moon Worship hail from Troy, N.Y. Informed by the defiant sounds of doom metal, no-wave and psychobilly, their debut EP Book the Pops is a five-track primer in primordial instincts and the realm of nightmares.
Opener "Rat City" immediately establishes the EP's dark palette. A sense of impending doom prevails as droning guitars clash with thudding drums. A glitchy static undercurrent runs throughout, making the listener's skin crawl. The lyrics send out a clear warning: "The city is full of rats and men / and it's a bad place to call your home."
Fans of Nick Cave's side project, Grinderman, will appreciate the electronic experimentation on the next tune, "Temple of Greed." Whirling to life like a robot ready to attack, the song gears up before plunging into piercing, unrelenting metal. Pounding drums carry the sonic assault all the way to the bitter end.
Moon Worship abruptly switch pace and tone on the next two tracks. Built on eerie, haunted vocals and watery echoes, "Swampwater Baptism" is straight out of Season 1 of "True Detective." Punctuated by distressed harmonica twangs and hair-raising rattle, the tune wades through a nightmarish bayou. A high-pitched, prophetic voice repeats, "My momma told me / that ain't the way / My momma told me / Don't you go away."
Those spooky vocals also permeate the seven-minute sprawler "Here Comes Hell." Sparse drumming evokes a slowly fading heartbeat, perhaps signaling that the listener is close to death, being led to the Underworld by Hades himself. Spectral, nail-scratching electronic elements add to the austere, fatalistic vibe.
At first listen, these two slow-burning tracks seem at odds with the EP's earlier aggression. However, these measured moments are actually more terrifying than the in-your-face hysteria of more violent songs. Sometimes it's more effective to let the mind invent its own monsters.
The closer, "Gaol," reintroduces the growling vocals and head-pounding intensity of previous cuts. Murmured howls and crashing cymbals round out this high-pitched number, ending things on an ear-splitting note.
Book the Pops is not easy listening. Between uncomfortable static crackles, unrelenting moments of metal and primal vocals, the EP serves up an assertive dose of experimental industrial rock. Yet there's a method to Moon Worship's boldness, as the fiery energy of the opening and closing tracks bookends the icy, otherworldly brood of the middle cuts. Even if your tastes fall squarely in the "safe and sound" category, Moon Worship's bold descent into modern, electro-fied psychobilly warrants a listen.
Moon Worship's debut EP, Book the Pops, is available at moonworship.bandcamp.com.