The Los Angeles-based dark roots and gothic country band Heathen Apostles release their third volume collection of songs at once as timely as they are timeless.
Imagine bands doing to Country / Bluegrass music what the bands we all love doing to Celtic music? Add on a bit of Goth and you’ve got the Heathen Apostles. A LA based band featuring ex-members of Radio Noir (Mather Louth), The Cramps (Chopper Franklin), Kings of Nuthin’ (Thomas Lorioux), and Christian Death (Stevyn Grey) in its ranks. They have been on these pages before but not for a in-depth review Mather, of course, was recently on these pages as co-vocalist on the new album from fellow ‘Doom-billy’ merchants The Phantom Of The Black Hills. An album that still holds the #1 spot in my heart of all 2021 releases. Though she had recorded with the Phantom before this time her input was a lot more than just a great voice with her assisting with writing and lyrics.
Sadly this review is going to be published after their tour of mainland Europe comes to an end so any new fans who may have had the chance will have missed them. Their tour of Europe was cancelled twice times as the music industry ground to a stop because of the Covid pandemic but it did mean the Heathen Apostles were gifted time. Time that they were not expecting due to their busy schedules and while some bands were happy to rest upon their laurels they channeled the turbulent year’s events and its complex emotions into their music. It was only last month that they released a 3-track EP as featured in Lorin Morgan-Richards Western animated series The Goodbye Family, a fictional family of undertakers based on a comic book. The show is available on You Tube and features the Heathens music throughout.
The third volume of Bloodgrass follows on from one and two released in 2017 and 2018 respectively and Bloodgrass #3 is a worthy follow up to the two previous volumes both available on the bands Bandcamp (link below).
So Volume three arrives and begins with ‘Bad Patch’ and continues their dark interpretation of Bluegrass, Country and Blues. Fiddle, banjo and mandolin accompany Mather’s beautiful voice as she sings of the tragedy of the 1930s Dust Bowl. A series of severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology of mid-west American prairies during the 1930’s. Besides the great lyrics the song is musically a bit more ‘radio friendly’ Heathen Apostles while ‘Careful What You Pray For’ is more the dark Gothic-Americana they are known for. The song tells of the danger of religious dogma and cements Mather as having one of the best voices in alternative music… or just music. ‘Black Hawk’ was the lead single for the EP and I’ll not pretend to have any idea what the lyrics are about except it’s a a tale of transformation by shedding the darkness in order to welcome in the light.
Yeah that is from the press release as if you didn’t know but be sure to check out the video as along with their label-mates The Phantom Of the Black Hills their videos tell entire stories and are as far from our usual fare as you can get. Despite being closely linked in many ways to the Phantom the Heathen Apostles have a very definite and original sound. There is no one else who resembles them making it hard to review them as it’s so original. Rooted in the definition of ‘Folk’ they mangle up several genres while adding much to the final sound. ‘Demi Monde’ is a slow song dominated by all the usual elements and shrouded in occult imagery paying homage to the fires of Beltane. ‘Tall Rider’ brings down the curtain on the EP on a positive note. I mean even the Sisters of Mercy were sometimes upbeat (ish!). Catchy as hell and a reminder of the possibility to heal through love. Great fiddle throughout that does lead a lot of the time but without dominating thanks in no small part to the excellent production of master producer Chopper Franklin.
The EP may only be five songs long but it’s length at almost twenty minutes in is almost as much as some albums we hear. Their recent tour took in mainly Germany (the Germans are good at spotting American bands) but I can’t see how this band with a bit of luck and the right promotion it won’t be long before their a name on everybody’s lips and they’ll be back touring in your country too.
(You can stream or download Bloodgrass Vol. 3 on the Bandcamp player below)
Buy Bloodgrass Vol. 3 Bandcamp