Entrance Prayer of Death

[Entrance; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: folk blues revival, psychedelia, indie rock, stoner
Others: Led Zeppelin, Dead Meadow, Leadbelly, Bob Dylan

If ever there was a time and place for Guy Blakeslee (a.k.a. Entrance) to release Prayer of Death, his third proper long-player, that time is the present ”” on a number of counts. In the current climate of senseless and seemingly perpetual war, Blakeslee's neo-hippie sensibilities, coupled with the spiritual leanings that are manifest on the album, serve as a primal scream, of sorts, for peace. Furthermore, given the recent rock revival zeitgeist that is in full force and effect, Entrance's Camaro-rock stylings have a very much in-the-now flavor. But aren't the "hippie mentality" and '70s cock-rock fundamentally at odds? Perhaps on a historical level, yes, they are, but Guy Blakeslee fuses the two concepts together to create a new paradigm: a stoner-psychedelic rock opera with death and mourning in a world without dignity as its subject that resonates with a beyond-the-grave delta blues vibe.

If Dead Meadow had spent more time listening to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix than Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, their overall sound might have been similar to that employed by Entrance on Prayer of Death. Like Dead Meadow, Blakeslee has the tendency to find a groove and run away with it, frequently allowing his tracks to come dangerously close to jam band territory, what with their heavy, extended drones and gauzy, late-'60s atmospherics. To further the comparison, Blakeslee's slightly adenoidal wails often recall Dead Meadow vocalist Jason Simon as well. But while Dead Meadow's tracks are shrouded in a vaporous, opiated haze, Entrance's pieces on Prayer of Death are suffused with the mournful, plaintive cries borne of gospel hymns and Negro spirituals. Blakeslee's collaborator Paz Lenchantin, who has also worked with Zwan and A Perfect Circle, among others, provides an able backing of gorgeous Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies on many of the record's tracks, contributing to Prayer of Death's aura of mystery and arcane spirituality in much the same manner that made Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" such a powerful and haunting track.

There is a somewhat crude, tinny quality to the production on Prayer of Death, which, though it can initially be somewhat distracting, ultimately seems like a deliberate calculation on the part of Blakeslee and his creative director Lenchantin. At times, these pieces sound not unlike ancient AM radio transmissions that have somehow been re-broadcast from outer space. Other pieces have the quality of historical documents ”” old, dusty Library of Congress and Smithsonian field recordings which, perhaps, have been recently unearthed. Entrance's more acoustic blues numbers, such as the title track, further augment the album's anachronistic charm. But despite the trappings of antiquity endemic throughout much of Prayer of Death, Entrance's recordings display a penchant for '70s revivalism, neo-psychedelia, and contemporary stoner grooves that anchor them firmly to the present. The aforementioned number, for example, is juxtaposed, as if for intentional effect, with the loping and brilliant "Lost in the Dark," an epic, bluesy dirge that is sure to raise gooseflesh on even the most jaded listener, and easily holds its own against almost any of the current crop of stoner doom.

1. Grim Reaper Blues
2. Silence on a Crowded Train
3. Requiem for Sandy Bull (R.I.P)
4. Valium Blues
5. Pretty Baby
6. Prayer of Death
7. Lost in the Dark
8. Never Be Afraid!

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