Bedemon – Symphony of Shadows

Bedemon’s Symphony of Shadows carries with it the kind of baggage that any other Pentagram-related release has: doomed luck. Randy Palmer, Bedemon’s principle songwriter and an early rhythym guitarist of Pentagram, died in a car accident a few months after the original sessions in 2002. For the next decade, Geof O’Keefe (drums/lead guitar, also, as most of you know, formerly of Pentagram) worked with the remaining members to complete the album. The results, while uneven from a production standpoint, do the band’s pedigree justice.

First track ‘Saviour’ begins strong with a suitably Sabbath-y riff slab, a mover that opens the album with an earnest and aggressive strike at the senses. Newcomer Craig Junghandel’s voice arrives shortly thereafter, and, while his command of the rather simple lyrics is strong, one gets the sense the pitch singing should be lower in the mix. Here, and across most of the album, the modern cleanliness applied to the vocal tracks feels out of place (and in some cases, nearly grating); the sharp clarity detracts from the ’70s warmth of the instruments. Thankfully Randy’s handiwork is never long in bringing the listener’s attention back to where it belongs. His well-worn but effective Iommi-stylings pull you right back in before you begin to wonder if this is an album with which you actually should spend your evening. Surprisingly, O’Keefe’s handling of the lead work is far beyond what one would expect of a man whose primary vocation is skins-basher, as are those of bassist/lead guitarist Mike Matthews (their switchback solos bringing songs such as the standout ‘Godless’ to a fitting close). Each man’s sorrowful, well-phrased lead lines perfectly complement Palmer’s thick rhythym guitar sonicstorm. More of this easy meld of mostly-pentatonics and slow, evil riffing awaits you at the album’s exiter ‘Eternally Unhuman’, with Randy’s moody SG running the show from beginning to end. In all, aside from the sometimes off-kilter vocal lines and almost campy production oddities (yep, those are handclaps on ‘Kill You Now’), the doom that permeates this release remains worth diving headlong into. Even ‘Hopeless’, a track for which O’Keefe states he had to “re-do both (Mike’s and Randy’s) bass and rhythym guitar parts” is not without appeal, though knowing this prejudiced me against the song at first.

Still, ingering questions will arise for the listener. First of all, why did Randy not attempt to play the solos himself, insisting as he did for Matthews and O’Keefe to handle the task? Why was Bobby Liebling – Pentagram’s and Bedemon’s original vocalist – not asked to perform on the album? For those of you that enjoy delving deep into Pentagram lore, you will have answers to these queries and have much more to find in the album’s accompanying booklet. Besides a track-by-track breakdown of the inspirations and individual contributions of each member following the lyrics of each song, a long, candid and well-written history of the band during the album’s sessions and up to the present follows penned by O’Keefe, who warns the reader “settle in; if you’ve read my liner notes in the previous Bedemon release (2004’s Child of Darkness, a collection of bootleg Bedemon sessions from the ’70s with Bobby Liebling on vocals) or Pentagram’s First Daze Here Too, you know brevity isn’t my forte.”

Despite its flaws, I continue to feel an urge to listen through Symphony of Shadows again, feeling that, maybe this time, I’ll understand Geof’s production choices a little more, or, at least, to get a glimpse of where Palmer’s presence may have taken them next. But none of that really matters. We have in our hands the last recording of arguably one of the very first US Doom guitarists, and for that I am grateful.

-Svart Records

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~ by cliftonium on October 9, 2012.

One Response to “Bedemon – Symphony of Shadows”

  1. Interesting album, gonna take a while to fully process it. The booklet is awesome- love it or hate it, it’s amazing this album ever got completed.

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