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The Entrance Band - The Entrance Band

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Artist: The Entrance Band

Album: The Entrance Band

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: Aug. 31, 2009

Guy Blakeslee’s last record, Prayer of Death, was recorded under his solo identity of Entrance. He started out as a weirdo blues loner, kinda like a slack-string Devendra Banhart, sitting starry-eyed on the same hill. Prayer took that style and poured black tar all over it. He hit it off with the rhythm section as they toughened up the songs.

It’s easy to see how the presence of bassist Paz Lenchantin, veteran of supergroups like Queens of the Stone Age and Zwan, gave the younger Blakeslee confidence to transform his backwoods approach into full rockstar swagger. A concept album about dying, Prayer threw together all sorts of late-hippy notions of darkness. Cellos crawled through the backing like T. Rex. George Harrison’s morose Hinduisms droned next to Sabbathy dirges. Listen closely and the songs are as hairbrained as they are heartfelt. But that’s completely true about the sonic models too; like T. Rex or Sabbath, go with the flow and they’re irresistible.

So far so good. Now that Entrance are more then session acquaintances, this band is ready to make the jump from Led Zeppelin to Led Zeppelin II, right? Ready to add fringe and sequins, some 12-string intros, some Crowley references.

Sadly, they squeeze the wrong lemon. Over and over. The tears run down my leg.

What we do get is delay-drenched college rock, circa 1983. It’s the sound of bands like U2, Echo and the Bunnymen and Simple Minds, when they started thinking about cracking America, and piled treated guitar in anticipation of their compositions bouncing off Stanley Cup pennants. There are fragments of blues riffs, but only to the extent that Echo and U2 were more cozy borrowing from the Doors and Zep than their post-punk siblings. More often, it’s a bunch of harmonics suspended in processed atmosphere.

Taking all the echo off Blakeslee’s voice and draping it over the guitar makes both seem thin. He reworks Prayer’s “Grim Reaper Blues” and even though the hoodoo-man lyrics get higher-octane hoodoo, the beefsteak slide guitar has wizened to a Slim Jim.

First-phase U2 has plenty of blunders between the anthems (they’re still trying to bury copies of their “A Celebration” 45), and the Entrance Band trips in the same places. “That is Why” has howls of passion that come off like yelps, and a hook that doesn’t seem to mean anything (“That is why I am LEAVING!”). Epic notes hang in the air, emphasizing the emptiness.

When the Entrance Band does let the longhair back into their permed-mullet rock, it’s not a good mix. The bass soup of the finale gets post-punk tension right, but it’s topped with lyrics that would make Styx snicker:

    Purifying flame of the truth burns on…
    Dance of time/chance of time…
    Illuminating infinite endlessness…

“M.L.K.” draws out the sparseness of the Edge to full Jerry Garcia chime. But we’ve already got a case study of Bono singing on the topic, and it’s way more subtle than this song. For the first time in 30 years, Bono seems comparatively understated: “Cause I want to hear freedom ring, I sing about Martin Luther King.” As this song glosses over King’ messages, it exploits the last unturned stone of the 1970s: Schoolhouse Rock.

I get the sense that Blakeslee is the kind of guy who’s already visited the crossroads in Clarksdale at midnight, hoping the Devil would show. There wouldn’t be any shame in going there again. Ol’ Scratch was probably busy that night, helping Rob Zombie with the transition from songwriter to filmmaker. He hasn’t stopped making deals, and sometimes they actually work out artistically. There’s still traces the wicked in this band, they just need someone to take out the nice stuff.

By Ben Donnelly

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