Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies – Earth Air Spirit Water Fire (Van Records)

Tuesday, 24th December 2013
Rating: 9/10

Among the saddest bits of news that came out of 2013 was the sudden and entirely unexpected dissolution of The Devil’s Blood. I remember sitting agape in my chair when reading that the band, at the time underway with their third album, had unexpectedly and for reasons all their own decided to exit the world. Knew it wouldn’t be the end as band mastermind Selim Lemouchi was quick to showcase his budding solo work and before long, music emerged under that banner. One EP (the fantastic Mens Animus Corpus) later we are presented with the long-awaited debut, this stunning five-track, forty five minute indulgence Earth Air Spirit Water Fire.

For anyone versed in The Devil’s Blood’s work, a lot of what appears here won’t come across as shocking as it is in many ways a continued evolution on that sound, though it also importantly moves beyond it into a territory all its own. Though there still remain sections of straight-forward rocking reminiscent of the best of what the 1970s had to offer, these are much more elaborate epics fueled by exploration and experimentation (after all, three of the songs run over 10 minutes). Opener “Chiaroscuro,” beyond the amusing sample, is a meditative and ritualistic affair, ebbing and flowing around a central theme for the bulk of its time, along with featuring the vocals of a very familiar voice. “Next Stop, Universe B.” is a brief, rock-happy affair that pairs nicely with its follow-up “The Ghost of Valentine,” a building and mostly ambient affair of resounding beauty.

The real joy of this work comes in the closing tracks “The Deep, Dark Waters” and especially the final piece “Molasses,” featuring (as the aforementioned Chiaroscuro) the vocals of none other than Faridah Lemouchi, the mouthpiece for The Devil’s Blood and used to amazing effect here. Slow-burning and elaborate, the song churns before, in the grandest of fashions, giving way to an ongoing series of absolutely searing soloing, at once pulling from all things past and tossing them toward an unknown future. It’s difficult not to gush over this release, especially given my past fondness for its progenitor.

With that said, regardless of which side of that camp you fell within (and whether or not you’re sick to death of the wave of bands that tried to follow them), it’s unlikely you can go wrong with this release. Close out your year in grand style. Embrace this masterwork.

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