Old Fire: Songs From The Haunted South album review

Ambient spectres from the Lone Star State.

Album art for Old Fire's Songs From The Haunted South

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Ten years in the making, this is a unique vision of a world that probably never really existed. It’s Texan programmer John Mark Lapham’s celebration of the American South, done in a fashion that owes more to the artistry of Brian Eno and Angelo Badalamenti than to southern rock or country. (That’s Lapham’s dad in the cover photo, taken in the Ozarks in 1958.) The album’s 13 tracks include original songs and covers, such as Shearwater’s Helix, Low’s Laser Beam and – the most traditionally Southern moment here – Psychic TV’s The Orchids.

Ultimately what’s conveyed is a sense of alienation and disenfranchisement, like that of an individual failing to fit into the context of his surroundings. Guests pepper the album with effective contributions, none more so than Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine. His vocals on Shadows neatly encapsulate the album’s overall tone of marginalisation. Lapham has done a brilliant job in creating a monochrome atmosphere of disillusion, yet conversely one of hope. From the opening Old Fire 3 to the closing reverence of Deadhouse Dream, this is a complex yet riveting exposition.

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica (opens in new tab), published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009.