Black Space Riders – Refugeeum (2015) – Germany’s Black Space Riders are back and let me tell you, they don’t disappoint.
They became one of my new favorite acts upon the advent of their last record D:REI and Refugeeum sees them just as strong, yet moving forwards to greater evolutionary realms. I’ll not beat around the bush here. In order to review this album, I’m going to have to take you on a track by track journey, as we continue to explore the depths of space as featured in the band’s previous outing.
The record begins with the space-prog of “Vortex Sun 8:18” which feels clean and glassy, especially when the clean vocal approach takes hold. A little bit of thunder quakes during the chorus moments, but this song is as much an atmosphere (check out the tribal section during the instrumental break) as it is a demonstration of successful verse/chorus repetition. Additionally, the lead melodies really seem to make this one and it’s a wonderful way to open an album.
“Universal Bloodlines 4:35” seems to roll into heavier Killing Joke territory on the chorus, it feels like a song that’s set to blow from the beginning The song really demonstrates the contrast between cool and warm temperatures, with “Vortex Sun” being surprisingly colder, despite its name. But considering it’s a vortex, it might be quite cool, like that of a frozen sun.
“Born A Lion (Homeless) 3:50” seems to dull the flames of the previous track a little, but not by much. We’re getting some cleaner melodies, but it truly feels like a beast on the prowl. It also makes me wonder why in the hell these guys aren’t more popular. The way that they balance melody and firepower with catchy choral earworms is something that more people should be taking notice of.
“The Lure (Come With Us) 4:09” seems to follow the previous a little, almost as if it’s a second thought. Needless to say, it didn’t really catch on with me. However, a massive cut arrives shortly after in “Run To The Plains 11:06” which definitely seems to exude more atmosphere and offers equal amounts of guitar and vocal melody throughout, which only serves to dazzle as the listener continues through the journey. “The Lure” may have failed to lure me, but I’m more than willing to “Run To The Plains” with them on this one. If you absolutely love prog and stargaze melodies, than you’ll absolutely love this. I’m not sure that I’m high enough to enjoy the full experience though.
“Curtains Of Death 8:36” changes the mood entirely and might even serve as a mood killer for those of you that have been enjoying the soft atmospheres of the past couple of songs. Fire builds up from the very beginning of this monster as a chuggy death march threatens to pound one’s eardrums (while still adding small touches of spatial atmosphere) with abrasive guitars and equally abrasive vocal shouts. This is definitely the band at their heaviest and I’m truly thankful for this sort of musical dichotomy. Stop and ask yourselves for just a minute, as to how many other bands can do the same.
“Melek’s Lament 6:18” once again sweeps us off our feet and delivers us into a more airy atmosphere, completely removed from the fires of its predecessor. This track offers up a ritualistic atmosphere with an almost whispered vocal and an almost silent band. Eventually the fires do roar a little as well as something that vocally sounds like a fierce ritual howl. That tribal atmosphere continues into “Walking Shades 4:41” even though it calms the flames once again to allow for another airy moment which feels like a meditation of sorts. The melodies laden within the track only help to fuel it further. It’s not a heavy number, but it’s definitely memorable.
The last track on the record is “Ritual Of Inner Strength 9:44” which starts off with an unexpected electronic flair. It eventually erupts, as many of the other tracks on the album do; yet it still manages to keep the strange electronic section intact and offers a relatively strong chorus at that. It’s an odd sort of mantra if you will; but it certainly works in a hypnotic fashion that continues to expand the journey in this transcendental experience to its proper zenith.
On that note, the album ends. Various influences can be named here in the work, like Monster Magnet (especially on Milking The Stars) Killing Joke, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine and several others. Simply put, these Germans know how create memorable atmospheres, and memorable songs as well. It’s not just something that you can zone out to, as it’s catchy and brings out a variety of moods. There’s nobody out there quite like Black Space Riders, who continue to be doing their own thing with yet another well-crafted and well appreciated album.
Definitely pick up a copy of it, if it sounds like something you’d be into. These guys took me on yet another trip, and I was once again enthralled by it.
(9 Tracks, 61:00)