Voodoo Bloo – The Blessed Ghost | Cathartic Alternative Rock Genius
New Zealand band Voodoo Bloo comes with nothing short of a heavy alternative rock masterpiece with their latest concept record The Blessed Ghost. The band is influenced by the rich legacy of alternative rock such as shoegazers My Bloody Valentine, alternative giants Deftones, post-punkers Interpol, legends Radiohead, and indie rock-pop Arctic Monkeys. The record deals with self-discovery attempting to place a mirror on the artist’s soul, especially with respect to the things one didn’t like about themselves. In this process, he also tries to improve himself to be better.
The Blessed Ghost commences with a deeply introspective spoken vocal intro on the first track. The album’s first song Pursuit has the guitars and deep bass descend you into the gravity of the album’s scope. The bass and drum syncopation mid-track gets you grooving. The chorus reverberates with energy and passion. The bridge provides a good harmonic counter while the outro ends with some stunning drumming. Noises proceed us into the next track We’re Here, Love is Somewhere Else which begins with an amazing riff. In under three minutes, you have your adrenaline pumped and the rhythmic tightness of the band takes you by awe.
Rhubard and Custard is an introspective mellow song that provides relief from the energy we just witnessed. But we don’t get much time to breathe as Default begins initially playing a trick on the listener. Soon, however, we are faced with this fast intense number where grey rock expressed musicality and power in their composition. The bass effects used on Skin along with its awe-inducing outro give us a grooving alternative rock number with a second half that would please any progressive metal loves.
Asterisk Vocal has a chorus that sounds out of this world with some incredibly stunning vocal production and effects used. Tomorrow Person has subtle vocal harmonies with some stunning guitar wizardry. Ritalin depicts an almost schizoid artistic madness with the vocals and instrumental approaching nothing short of heavy rock artistry. The album concludes with the mesmerizing Continuous Stimulus. The Blessed Ghost began with Younger then and ended with Older now, having traversed a deep coming of age journey.
The baritone vocals are powerful and are able to capture a unique musical mood. Drumming takes the songs to the next level which you don find in the standard post-punk song. This is a record that doesn’t give you a moment to hold your breath. We hear the full range of rock and even metal sonic territory with extreme sonic diversity including electric revers and synths on the album.
Vocalist Rory McDonald with his stunning baritone and deeply emotional vocal delivery has traces of Chino Moreno, Paul Banks, and Ian Curtis. He pushes and screams his way to the edges of what vocals can do. The guitar prowess in terms of raw performance and tonal experimentation by Daniel Maslen and Rory McDonald is fabulous. The rhythm section consisting of drummer Jackson Kidd and bassist Oli Cass are nothing short of virtuosos serving the songs while being lead instruments in themselves. Voodoo Bloo with The Blessed Ghost manage to create a rock album that is a technical and experimental opus with cathartic expressive storytelling.
We get to talk with frontman Rory McDonald and discuss this stunning LP.
1. We can hear some Chino Moreno, Paul Banks, and Ian Curtis with a stunning baritone that fills the sonic space. We can also hear you screaming and pushing the extent to what vocals can do. What are your vocal influences and how are vocals approached in terms of delivery?
Well you’ve already hit some major spots when it comes to my vocals, but my absolute favorite vocalists of all time have to be Mike Patton and Brendon Urie. Mike to me is just the perfect man for any job, the control he has over his voice is near unheard of, and the fact he can almost morph his voice to fit any track he’s on really is an accomplishment not many vocalists have managed. Brendon on the other hand just has this magical element about him, the pipes on that man will never fail to amaze me.
2. The vocals and reverb on Asterisk sound out of this world, how are the vocals processed on that song in terms of time and space base effects? Also, why is it a “work-in-progress’ as you add in the title?
I believe we used an original space echo for quite a lot of that track, something that our guitarist Daniel absolutely freaked out over when he first saw it, so did the rest of us to be fair, Radiohead used to use it quite a bit and it’s really unlike any other verb you can find. Others used would’ve come from a memory man or grand canyon delay, and the spacey vibe created by all of these makes it one of my absolute favorites on this release. As for the title, it’s purely just because that’s what the demo title was called, and we all thought it’d be quite funny to leave in, so we did.
3. While we know that this album is about an imagined partner and in the process you discover that whatever you might not like about yourself is being etched into this character. Beyond that there are deep themes on self-refection, coming of age, etc. However, how is the album’s elaborate narrative flow as you intended it?
Well I think that it really just does follow that narrative quite strictly, from the first half talking about the issues I currently see within myself, “skin” marking the point I try to transform, and the rest of the album is my musical checklist on how to change. Each song was put in a very specific order to reflect this narrative, I think we discussed changing round some of the songs at one point but when we tried it, it just felt so very wrong to us because it broke the narrative and flow.
4. Dying to know what guitar wizardry and bass effects like in the song Synth are used. The sonic elements and mix are out of this world. What is being utilized in terms of gear on the record, that is, guitars, effects, beautiful ambient synths, drums?
Well for Daniel he was mainly on his jazz master, running through a roland JC120, with his one million effects he has between his two pedalboards, which really created the ethereal soundscape of the album. For me though, I went through my vox AC30 with my telecaster, mainly using a tube screamer, rotary chorus and grand canyon delay, our producer greg usually stuck a strymon bluesky on for me as well just to help flesh it out. As for our bassist ollie, he had a massive ampeq combo rig with my Rickenbacker, with an earthquaker plumes, hizumitas, avalanche run, as well as a few other secrets for his tone.
I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of details there, we used sooooo many different effects in different orders. We were pretty much rebuilding our pedal boards every day just to get the right tone for a specific section.
5. There is no dull moment on this record! For example, Default initially plays a trick on the listener and or the abrupt ending in Tomorrow person to name a few. And of course, the drumming that sets the record apart from others in the genre. What is your songwriting process or rather how do you ensure that every moment of each song keeps the listener engaged? Not necessarily how you come up with riffs, but how do you arrange different musical sections for the best musical narrative flow?
Honestly, if I had the answer to this I would be out there selling millions and millions of records right now, truth is I’m not sure we can be entirely attributed to this idea, and I think we’re still figuring out how to arrange the different musical sections ourselves. I definitely think we did a good job, but there’s always room for improvement.
6. The production and mix on the record ensures that all the intricate elements align perfectly. How did you work on this to see that such complex music gets the execution as per your vision?
Well, our producer Greg Haver is to thank for much of this. He would come in every day with us, sit us down, get us to play a track live, then he would pull it apart and glue it back together and see what stuck, and I think that was the approach he took to producing the record as well, he really was a master at knowing how to approach something carefully, but then when necessary, just pulling something out the bag so unexpected that it almost always worked. We did spend a bunch of time with him emailing back and forth before we even got into the studio though, so he really became a fifth member for a brief period of time, completely understanding each tracks feel and narrative before we even pressed record.
7. Your work exists across rock genres such as Post punk, shoegaze, progressive, and alternative. Do the lyrics or music narrative come first or the music? Both are incredibly complex on this record. How do you make both of them meet together so the themes align with the technical aspects of the music?
I think it really varies track by track, and sometimes it will take you by surprise. For example, For Asterisk had no lyrics set in stone before we recorded it, and there was a big emphasis on how the actual track sounded first, just finding the soundscape it sat into, however through the process of recording the song and when I found the right words to say, I actually have trouble paying attention to the musical aspect as much as they ended up being my favorite on the lp.
In short, its a big hodgepodge job, sometimes it’s the narrative, and sometimes it’s the music, but every time it will take you by surprise which ends up being most important.
Voodoo Bloo is a force to reckon with! Do not miss this album! Spin it here: