Doleful Lions – Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum

Doleful Lions
Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum

It’s human nature to balk at something that is new and different and not what you expect, like your first-ever cup of coffee. Even if brewed just right, it’s an acquired taste. So it is with Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum, the Doleful Lions’ fifth release. It’s new and different and not what you expect.

Given the album title, songs called “Satanic Blood” and “Sham Magic in the Night Gallery,” and lyrics about demonic sacrifice and the occult, you’d expect an album of scorching death metal or pompous prog-rock, but Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum is neither. Instead, the infernal lyrics are accompanied with sparse, guitar-based folk melodies as waves of melancholic pop permeate throughout, creating a ghost-like psychedelic ambience. When these ingredients are combined in the proper proportions, the result is candy to my ears, but at times the arrangements are a little too bare and the songs lose their quaint peculiarities ending up flavorless.

On previous releases, Doleful Lions have spun their supernatural tales from ordinary jangle pop, acoustic guitar, and voice, full-band mutli-layered orchestrations, and a nod to 70s Krautrock. Now down to just the duo of Jonathan Scott (songs, singing) and David Jackson (antique gadgets, studio wizarding), this release shows flashes of all of these pasted together with the neo-psychedelic pop of Olivia Tremor Control and the playful melodies of I am Kloot producing some tracks that are brilliantly cool but others that are lukewarm.

The album opens with the excellent “Sham Magic in the Night Gallery,” the perfect mix of catchy rhythms cloaked in tranquil atmospherics and lo-fi bedroom melancholy, complete with quavering vocals. Along with “Strange Vibrations,” with its fuzzed-out vocals, gurgling percussion, and looped drone guitar, and the devilishly catchy bubblegum pop of “Satanic Blood,” these three songs form the album’s highlights and prove that the quirky genius influence of Syd Barrett still lives.

Scattered between these are the disappointing “Watch the Skies / A Boy’s Life” and “The Ghost That Haunts Your World Will Disappear.” Although some surreal atmospheric effects are emanating from the background, they are too sparse to mask Jonathan Scott’s fluttering alto that becomes the center of attention and diminishes the tunes appeal. The disc closes on a high point with the instrumental “The Extra-Large Epiphany,” which breaks away from the light, poppy folk-guitar strumming to include a drum machine backbeat bolstered by bass, electric guitar, and tinkling keyboards before fading out one layer at a time until left with just the keyboard and space guitar that end abruptly.

The irony of angelic melodies about satanic rituals mimicking the irony in the band’s name, the high trembling voice of Scott, and the inconsistently brewed blend of neo-psychedelic indie folk are definitely an acquired taste, but ultimately Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum contains enough of Doleful Lions’ special brand of interestingly orchestrated haze-pop to make it a worthwhile endeavor.