The hardscrabble geography of Australia is not for the faint of heart. On one side you have seas filled with swimming Cadillac’s with razors for teeth, the other is barren land full of jackals and the last of the tribesman, the cities are over flowing and the mentality is full-on scrum. But from this rugby crazy and lager fueled country comes some of the fiercest bar bands to ever blaze a path across the global strata. AC/DC, Midnight Oil, Rose Tattoo, The Saints and Nick Cave all cut their teeth on Perth and Sydney outlier pubs with the harshest critics armed with beer bottles and cycle chains if the set wasn’t up to snuff. It’s mean, it’s nasty, it’s a blood sport, but it’s also the breeding ground to make you bullet proof. And if history is any indication then Melbourne’s The Ugly Kings are Kevlar-coated and ready for incoming.
Their latest EP may sound familiar from the instant the needle is dropped since it’s a healthy dose of all those great Aussie assets: thick, groove induced chords, deep baritone vocals and a “harden the fuck up” ethos. However its not the bronzed sound that draws upon your skull, it’s the Lodi, New Jersey most famed son that seems to be a ghost upon these recordings, Glen Danzig. Of Sins oozes the rattlesnake desert shake of Danzig’s “creepy crawl” metal blues. But not ones to jump someone else’s train, The Ugly Kings tip their hats to Mr. Cave, Duane Eddy, Morphine and others who’ve succeeded at dwelling on the dark side of men’s souls, albeit with their own unique twists. Certainly sinister and stark, Of Sins is full of bounce and verve as well especially on the title track and “Wicked Witch Of Wonder” with vocalist “Rusty” summoning the deep belly blues of the Southern States whilst wrestling with a libertine. The initial track off Of Sins “Control Freak” is a metallic gem; full of slinky guitar lines and a full throated “ I ain’t nobody’s master” pronouncement that lurches into the bar for one last round.
Opener “Devil Heart” is the type of track that the Bad Seeds would solicit to David Lynch for his latest head-fuck cinematic art piece but with the kind of groove that sold Zeppelin a billion albums. If all sins are created equal than it’s the track “Goodbye” featuring female vocalist Pierina O’Brien (the worst kind of femme fatale, an Irish one) that digs the band its deepest hole as the root cause of all of man’s ruin. O’Brien takes center stage spitting venom evoking the Medusa syndrome, where man is turned to stone before her eyes. Never, ever give a woman a microphone especially when she looks like that. “Out Of Time” bounces back and forth from Mississippi porch paean to bonfire séance leading one to believe how easy it was for Robert Johnson to sell his soul because the Devil, well he likes to dance too.
The Ugly Kings may hail from Down Under but their souls and sound dwells much deeper where good men have been cast for their unfortunate decisions. Of Sins plays out like an evening of bad turns one drink too many and if it wasn’t so damn enticing I’d say “best set it afire and wash your hands of the whole affair”, but you won’t. You see, men for all their good intent are acutely tuned into their “dark journey” and Of Sins helps set the roadmap. May the good Lord be with you?