Richie Records has released a series of long-players based in maximum riffage from the likes of Purling Hiss, Birds of Maya, and most recently, Spacin’. As such, they are the perfect home for the riff-minded solo endeavor of Ry Wharton, a.k.a. King Blood. Spats with bootlegs from the monolithic runes of ’70s Japanese psych—from the Taj Mahal Travellers to the mythologized live destructions of Les Rallizes Denudes—have inspired a new generation bent on taking heavy guitars past the redundancy of metal and punk to pound them into a primitive ether. Wharton realizes that what those bands were doing was less formula and more feeling and volume, and the results might cause a physical and mental transformation. Then again, moving from his impenetrable debut, Eyewash Silver, and on to Vengeance, Man, Wharton appears more as scientist than shaman, though I’d like to think with the compositions he constructs with the almighty riff, he can be a bit of both. Perhaps alchemy is the proper field for Wharton, as he is just as likely to throw the boogie aesthetes of Blue Cheer’s Randy Holden or Sir Lord Baltimore or even Black Oak Arkansas into the pot, along with melted Metallica cassettes and lost blues, and produce the same gilded, yet confounding haze.
The sleight of hand Wharton possesses is even more apparent on Vengeance, Man. Even in the sub-90 seconds of “Here Comes a Candle,” you can hear the echoes of 1,000 swamp guitars drowning in quicksand, and after it’s over, it’ll be ringing in your skull for hours. The imprint of the riffs Wharton selects is just as much a part of his music as when they are played in real time. These are riffs that travel with you, that might haunt your dreams and drift into infinity. The single-riff structure that Wharton employs on Vengeance, Man may read on paper like a one-trick pony and casual listeners could tire easily of the hypnosis therein, but beyond that central riff, Wharton takes great measures to establish tiny abstract symphonies out of the curvature in the dense, distorted fuzz and the reverberation that trail behind. Vengeance, Man isn’t just a blown-out trip. The title track and the near-Eastern drone of “Dead Meet” contain melodic passages lurking underneath. And “I’ll Take What’s Mine” is reminiscent of the Dirty Three as played by the Dead C in its harrowing loneliness and paranormal sonic bleeds. Perhaps soundtrack work for post-apocalyptic desert love tragedies is in Wharton’s future? All of those specific traits established previously on Vengeance, Man sneak into the eight-minute chug of finale “Silent Dust.” Deep in the mix you can hear Wharton conducting the proceedings with a mono-syllabic refrain; one guitar remains as the bedrock mimicking the voice while the others take increasingly transcendent paths. There are sleeping spirits awoken in this druggy jam. But wait, that’s just feedback, man. I want to believe.
Kevin J. Elliott