Sometimes what you want out of an album is to take you back to a simpler time. It’s not like we’re living in the most ideal timeline right now, but even without current events being what they are, it’s nice to be taken back to when things were different, even if that time was 25 to 30 years before you were born. Emile’s singer/songwriter debut The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord does just that in spades. This is Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things non-metal and metal-adjacent.
Copenhagen native Emile is probably better known as Emil Bureau, frontman of psychedelic rockers The Sonic Dawn. As part of a group, he’s already got four acclaimed albums and numerous European tours with the likes of Brant Bjork (of Kyuss and Fu Manchu fame), Graveyard and Dead Meadow under his belt, but The Black Spider is his foray into solo singer/songwriter territory. It’s not too terribly much of a departure, as the album still features plenty of the psychedelic grooves and wispy vocals that Emile is known for, just channeled into a different sort of vibe. Indeed, the sixties and seventies worship is even stronger than ever here, piecing together every stylistic hallmark of the decades, from bluesy, reverb-soaked vocals to swirling organs, woodwinds and soft hand percussion to gentle acoustic fingerpicking and gritty electric strumming. It’s an album that revels in the trappings and conventions of the genre where others would seek to subvert them or cherry pick only bits and pieces. Emile is as comfortable as ever in the full embrace of a sound many would consider to be outdated or overdone. On The Black Spider he shows that there’s still more to be squeezed out of the sound, which is most prominently displayed in lyrics that are about as far from sixties flower power as you can get. Indeed, The Black Spider gets pretty dark, dealing with themes of death, loss, fear of growing old and the dystopian near-future of civilization. Emile describes The Black Spider as “a dream that shows a side of reality too strange to observe in any other way.” Sounds about right.
Musically, the album is split into two halves. The first half, The Black Spider, features more personal songs and has a softer sound, primarily Emile and his guitar gently playing and singing. The second half, Det Kollektive Selvmord, showcases Emile singing in his native Danish over much darker and more psychedelic atmospheres. There are spots where the two styles overlap each other, and the places where everything ramps up and blends together into a swirling psychedelic mass are, dare I say, groovy, particularly on the Danish-language “At Se Ud Over Sig Selv.” Tracks like “The Black Spider,” which features grimy downtuned electric picking with bluesy slides and the instrumental “Bundløs,” which builds on huge, thick distorted tones and is basically just a vehicle for Bureau to rip a solo for two minutes and change, also provide some much-needed sonic variance. Still, this is mostly a love letter to the gentler side of the spectrum, so fans of The Sonic Dawn looking for some upbeat aggression are going to find those spots few and far in between. However, cuts like “Life Upside Down” and “Birds Fall” so perfectly capture the sound of sixties songwriting that it’s hard to walk away less than impressed. This is an album with a very specific vision and its execution is to be commended.
As someone who tends to enjoy folk that’s on the rougher side of things, I found a lot to enjoy here. If you’re not, the good news is that there’s also a lot to enjoy here. There’s enough variety in the instrumentation and tones to make this an engaging listen. If you’re looking for music that successfully captures the feel of a generation, this is a great place to start.