dB HoF No. 130
Label: Sinister Figure
Release date: November 24, 2002
Over the length of their relatively short, yet remarkably productive, career, Reverend Bizarre distinguished themselves as a highly literate and darkly humorous band, and one of the doom metal genre’s most ardent conservationists and crusaders. The Finnish doom trio’s 2002 debut, In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend, is positively steeped in the sounds of Black Sabbath’s first six albums, Candlemass, Saint Vitus, Pentagram and the Maryland doom scene. But it’s also audacious and original; In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend may have been designed as a vehicle to pay homage to doom’s forefathers, but it transcends pastiche from its opening notes.
As the old adage goes, the devil is in the details, and the details suggest that In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend is a heady and cerebral affair. The album’s 21-minute-plus closing track— referencing both The Lord of the Rings and the band Cirith Ungol—features lyrics in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional “Black Speech.” Perhaps that’s standard fare for a genre fixated on swords and sorcery. But the tongue-in-cheek reference to King Crimson’s classic debut in the album’s title and the sample from Peter Weir’s tense Picnic at Hanging Rock (“I think I must be doomed. I don’t feel at all well”) at the beginning of “The Hour of Death”? Proof these guys were committed to thinking outside the box from the get-go.
Although bassist/vocalist Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen and guitarist Kimi “Peter Vicar” Kärki had been playing together, off and on, since 1994, Reverend Bizarre really coalesced five years later with the arrival of drummer Jari “Earl of Void” Pohjonen. According to Hynninen, by the time the trio entered the studio in March 2001, he already had a nearly complete vision for future track lists, album art, songs and lyrics for a five-album cycle intended to span the band’s entire career. Reverend Bizarre already had more ideas than could fit into the span of an over 74-minute album, and In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend bursts at the seams with intricate arrangements and whip-smart reinvention of classic sounds.
In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend sounds like a black hole opening up and drawing everything into its bleak void; the album’s gravitational pull is crushing and asphyxiating. One could certainly argue that future Reverend Bizarre releases—especially 2005’s follow-up II: Crush the Insects—featured bigger and more memorable hooks, but the luxury of more time in the studio did the compulsive personalities in Reverend Bizarre no favors. We favor In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend for what Kärki describes as the album’s “rawness” and for the masterful sense of despair conveyed in the openings of tracks like “In the Rectory” and “Sodoma Sunrise.” In short, it is an exemplar of the classical doom metal style, the first album of its kind in Finland, and absolutely a classic in its own right.
- Nick Green
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