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The Circle And The Blue Door

Rise Above (2013)
Rating: 8/10

Rise Above Records, the label owned by Cathedral and former Napalm Death frontman Lee Dorrian, have a knack for finding utterly mystifying and intriguing bands. The latest bunch of occult rockers to emerge from the cauldron is London-based Purson, a foggy four-piece delightfully named after the Great King Of Hell!

Purson are another of those modern bands who seem stuck in the dark ages, obsessed by creaky esoteric books and quite happy to wear their influences on their sleeve, with Coven, Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, early Deep Purple, Shocking Blue, and all manner of late-60s psych bands spring to mind.

Of course, this brand of revival rock is far from being anything new. Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony, Jess And The Ancient Ones et al, are all ploughing a similar furrow, and all fronted by phantasmal females; in this case Purson being driven by the sultry, if somewhat bewitching, vocals of Rosalie Cunningham.

For the most part, Purson are the musical equivalent to one of my favourite horror films, The Wicker Man (1973); at times seemingly joyous and Pagan, yet with a sense of the remote in those eerie jangles. The injection of a fuzzy organ gives The Circle And The Blue Door a typical late-60s / early-70s feel, evoking images of tranquil English fairs perched on the edge of elusive rural villages. Mind you, the weird promo video for lead single ‘Leaning On A Bear’ has all the surreal quality of a late-70s children’s television drama, such is its phantasmagorical quality.

Cunningham’s wispy vocals are certainly sexy and smooth as they rise above that space-hopping organ and jingly structures. If you’ve never experienced some of the 60s’ most obscure psych bands then this will certainly be quite an experience, but the reality is Purson are a sum of many parts, and not original at all. However, such is their talent that the band are able to shift between Black Sabbath at their strangest, and The Magic Roundabout mixed with The Doors.

‘The Contract’ is one of the album’s sleepiest tracks, although again Cunningham’s voice is commanding, best suited to some type of occult ritual performed in crumbling castle walls. She’s also a fine guitar player, providing the album with an almost sinister edge as the drums whisper in the distance like windy howls on a stormy night.

Purson bridge the gap between 60s-styled fuzz pop and heavier, doomier rock, although the album rarely travels on weightier pathways. If anything, Purson’s debut opus reminds me of an early-70s horror soundtrack; think Vampyros Lesbos (1971), Le Frisson des Vampyres (1971), Vampyres (1974) et al rolled into one.

My favourite track on this 11-track platter is the creepy crawly ‘Spiderwood Farm’, which rolls out of the grave on a tumbling drum before taking the form of a go-go beat that dulls to a sinister rattle, boosted once again by those witchy vocals suggesting that Cunningham is casting spells throughout her narration.

‘Rocking Horse’ is equally foreboding, evoking images of a woodland walk beset by the leering of demons from ominous trees. And that’s where Purson stand out – rarely do they quote the devil’s tongue, but instead conjure up tales of the unexpected, best suited to flickering campfires.

Purson are very much the epitome of folkloric rock, bringing to mind some of the progressive acts from the 70s as well as being something akin to flicking through the pages of an antiquarian ghost story. With Bloody Hammers, Devil, Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats, Ghost and goodness knows how many others bands all seeking the terrible truth in their sound, Purson are a far lighter experience, but that doesn’t mean this gang of four fails to capture atmosphere.

Purson, if anything, are a far more rewarding experience than Ghost, but probably won’t see as much success. However, Rosalie Cunningham and company are more effective in their spooky journey than those who’ve chosen to dress up for kicks.

Neil Arnold

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