After the success that Furr had found them, Blitzen Trapper was poised with an extremely considerable amount of attention. Here was a band that had started out with modest goals and ambitions, and through re-creating themselves with every new album they had also gained a sincere reputation as being an impeccably skillful band. They knew how to write the perfect songwriting gem (“Black River Killer”), and they also knew how to write the devilishly sly (“Reno..”), but they had also realized how to write rough break-neck rock songs with everything on Wild Magic Mountain. And now, they had to find something inventively wild to do next.
Eric Earley’s always been the one front and center with Blitzen Trapper. The leading man is often found recording on an out of tune piano, bringing along a harmonica on stage, or writing lyrics at the back of the room. The expansive sound they had reached on Furr is taken a step further with the explosive sounds popping off Destroyer of the Void. Never ones to take much time off between albums, Earley made it a point to not only continue on a strong songwriting suite of songs but this time, he decided to flesh them out into embellished, revolving, influence-laden and diverse rock songs. Risky and bold, Blitzen Trapper take the idea and turn it into what ends up being yet another masterpiece for the Portland band.
The balladry on the first song is quickly juxtaposed with what sounds like Billy Joel at the piano and before you know it, the synths and electric guitar show up in Jimi Hendrix fashion but only to turn it into an Elton John swarm. The synths come shining in as they would on any other Blitzen Trapper album (spacey and sci-fi in demeanor) but they’re used to convey a much deeper sound; they even mix in the sounds of TV dialogue before jamming out to a sweat ending. And on “Below the Hurricane,” they start off reflective and like Fleetwood Mac, with accompanying acoustic guitar and call and response vocals, and they carry that mood into a spectral change of pace. It’s almost a “who’s who of great, classic rock” that comes out the heaviest on Destroyer of the Void but instead of wishing Eagles could sound like this, it’s more about the impressive musicianship behind Blitzen Trapper that is leading to such astounding music.
And though the album is definitely geared towards pushing the methods of folk and rock before them, that isn’t to say that everything needs to be so heady either. “Dragon’s Song” is a blues-infused stomp that finds pre-Baby 81 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club being paid tribute to, and “Laughing Lover” storms in and out, on the heels of a glorious melody that bursts through the clouds like a beaming sun. Everything sounds a bit clearer, a bit more substantial and that much better than ever before.
Then, on “Evening Star”, Earley sings a high-pitched melody about being taken back to that “first romance” and wanting to hear every word spoken from her mouth. The laid-back groove has a country shuffle that resonates strongly; behind the subtle bass and the drum’s off-capered pattern Earley is still singing about the black angel that hides in the back. Their imagery is not only reaching new levels but the manipulation of sounds and having them fit their given subject matter has become masterful. Sure, you can throw in a few well-calculated words and have it all sound great but Blitzen Trapper has not only figured out how to add bite and grit to their stories but honest-to-goodness soul.
Focusing on what it actually is: a gripping, rousing album that fashions smooth flow, gifted musicians and startling music, it’s impressive. But on a larger scale, Destroyer of the Void is a fitting reminder of what’s possible when you already have such a strong catalog of music under your belt: exceptional music that always seems to beautifully connect, no matter how varying the sounds may be.