Doom Side of the Moon – Doom Side of the Moon (self released, 04 August 2017)
So this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd releasing their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. That’s a pretty significant milestone, and anyone who spends much time poking around this website will soon realize that they are one of my favorite bands of all time. That has been the case for at least half of the past fifty years, ever since I really started to discover their catalogue of work when I was in middle school — and that fandom has been borderline obsessive during much of that time.
Evidently someone else who feels the same way is Kyle Shutt, guitarist for The Sword, who has chosen to mark the occasion of a half-century of Pink Floyd albums by recreating their best-known work (and one of the biggest selling records in history) The Dark Side of the Moon.
“The idea came to me after getting baked and wanting to hear a heavy version of ‘Time’,” he explained. “I thought, why not just cover the whole album?” While admitting that “It felt a little strange messing with someone’s legacy,” the guitarist went on to say that he is “treating it as a celebration of one of the greatest bands to ever rock, a party that everyone is invited to.”
Recruiting two of his bandmates, bassist Bryan Richie and drummer Santiago Vela III, the project was completed with the addition of vocalist Alex Marrero, saxophonist Jason Frey, and keyboardist Joe Cornetti, and thus Doom Side of the Moon was born.
Their lovingly crafted tribute will officially be released on Friday (04 August), and then on Saturday (05 August, the exact anniversary of Piper‘s release) they’ll be performing the whole thing at Emo’s in Austin TX, along with a laser show performed by The Mustachio Light Show.
As I mentioned, I’ve been a huge fan of Pink Floyd for decades, and it’s always unnerving to have someone try to cover a band with such significance — and especially to tackle a work that’s become such a cultural icon. With covers or tributes of any kind, there’s that balancing act between changing things so much that it almost becomes unrecognizible, and changing too little and having nothing creative to add to the mix. Doom Side of the Moon is being billed as a “stoner metal version” of the classic album, but probably based more on the pedigree of its contributors than anything else, as the record doesn’t seem like a huge departure, stylistically, from the original.
Probably the most striking change is the omission of spoken word samples or sound effects of any kind: lead-in track “Speak to Me” consists chiefly of noise and feedback here as it fades in and builds up; “On the Run” recreates the electronic loops and fast-shuffle drums pretty faithfully, but the background noise and sound effects are replaced by random sax/guitar/drum sounds; “Time” begins without any alarm bells ringing (and substitutes heavy drumming for the ticking that ran through the original); mercifully (to anyone sick to death of hearing that opening “ka-ching!” sound every two hours or so on every classic rock station in the world) “Money” eschews any and all cash register noises; and closing track “Eclipse” fades away without the famous trailing heartbeats.
Some of the alterations here seem more out of necessity based on the available instrumentation rather than intentional choices: for example, the backing vocals during the choruses of “Time” have been replaced by a saxophone melody, and likewise the incredible vocal of the original “Great Gig in the Sky” (which took three additional singers to reproduce when Floyd themselves would perform the song in later years) is played on sax here as well.
But elsewhere, the arrangements have indeed been revised — sometimes subtly and sometimes less so — but not always in a “heavier” or “stoner metal” style. “Breathe in the Air” features a gently strummed acoustic guitar, and overall sounds a bit sparser (until the end, that is, which has been extended by about a minute following the last line of the song, here consisting of heavy cymbal crashes and noodly guitar noise); “Us and Them” also has a much sparser feeling than the original version (while the choruses are more similar to what we’re accustomed to hearing — and consequently end up seeming much fuller by contrast).
Other songs, though, do get dressed up a bit more heavily — perhaps still not exactly “stoner metal” but at least “stoner moderate rock.” “Time,” as already mentioned, features the addition of some heavy rock drumming, and the sustained bass notes, tinkly electric piano, and rototoms have now given way to distorted power chords and wild feedback. The “Breathe Reprise” section at the end of that track is given a slightly psychedelic-funk makeover, while the later instrumental “Any Colour You Like” has utterly lost any semblance to its original “Breathe 2nd Reprise” subtitle, becoming essentially a pure stoner-psychedelic freakout jam session. The somewhat bolder arrangement of “Money” more resembles some well-known live versions than the one on the original album (including, it seems, the addition of some cowbell at the end of each verse?); meanwhile “Brain Damage” amps up the absurdity/insanity quotients significantly (at least on the verses) and the wailing guitar that has been substituted for the lead organ part in “Eclipse” gives that song’s arrangement a larger feeling (while it simultaneously somehow also seems more claustrophobic).
To get a sense of the light show that is planned to accompany the album in its live performance, some videos have been created that combine trippy visualizations with the audio — here you can check out “Time” and “Money” or just dive in and check out the whole record in the third video below…
Pre-order a digital copy of Doom Side of the Moon right here. Physical copies and other merch are on sale here, and tickets to the live performance (at Emo’s in Austin TX on Saturday 05 August) are available here.
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