Blasphemy didn't always belong to dudes in corpse paint and spiked armbands. At one point in history, rock and blues were the devil's music, existing mainly for hip-shaking and corrupting the youth. Blues has a sinister past — the most obvious example being Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues" — but there's also Brownie McGhee's "Dealing With the Devil," Charley Patton's "Devil Sent the Rain Blues" and a long list of others. King Dude seems intent on bringing the devil back to American music.
King Dude is mostly the vision of TJ Cowgill, a prolific Seattle musician who played in the ahead-of-its-time late-'90s blackened hardcore band Teenage Cthulhu and currently shreds vocals and guitars with the extreme metal group Book of the Black Earth. His also directs Actual Pain, a website and clothing line dedicated to all things occult. This is a man who dwells in darkness, but not without serious thought and a sense of humor, like a campy exploitation movie with themes that run deeper than blood and breasts.
Burning Daylight is the second full-length release from King Dude, a record that maintains the dank themes and atmosphere of last year's excellent Love and Tonight's Special Death, a 2010 limited CDR. Of the few songs I've heard, Cowgill here abstracts his blues with clangs and squeals out of an '80s Scott Walker production (Climate of Hunter, anyone?), but "Jesus in the Courtyard" represents the most straight-ahead blues I've heard from King Dude so far. The electric guitar rambles like a jalopy on a dirt road as Cowgill deeply intones, "He got the Devil around his finger / Jesus around his neck" as if he were a Tuvan throat singer. When the chorus hits, Cowgill moans like Bauhaus' Peter Murphy, the reverb rounding the "Ohhhhhhh, Lord" like vultures on a fresh carcass. It's chilling.
But there's still hope in King Dude's pagan folk songs; after all, Johnny Cash wouldn't be Johnny Cash without his demons. Cowgill writes about love and redemption often, and actually comes from both Christian and pagan backgrounds — he's just trying to balance the darkness and the light.
Burning Daylight comes out Oct. 16 on Dais Records.