If there’s one thing that jazz/rock power trio douBt makes very clear on their sophomore release, Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love, it’s that they’re not afraid of conventions. Inspired by William blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience and a host of 20th century music, ranging from Hendrix to Stravinsky, douBt sets out to launch us into adventurous territory with their furious vision of hard rock, jazz, and free form improvisation that is meant to be turned up loud and send you through multiple spins. Launching the album with “There is a War Going On,” a theme which is reprised later in the abum, the band delivers a strong message (which I’ll leave to you to interpret) along with thick organs and weird effects before moving along into the first full song, “Jalal,” a track with a great polyrhthmic feel all around, fabulous grooves focusing on the snare and hi-hat, and loads of improvisation. After the guitar delivers the main theme of the piece, we get a general glimpse into what douBt is all about: great modern improvisation with the ability to build their songs with subtlety and intensity.
Displaying the more avant-garde leanings of the band are the pieces “Rising Upon Clouds” and the title track “Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love.” The former offers stunning guitar ambiance that will haunt your nightmares with the keys playing loads of atonal phrases over drumming that is meant to instill a sense of chaos rather than just a simple beat. After a couple of minutes the keys get quite violent and eventually round the piece off with a sort of cathedral organ sound as the drums slowly fade off into oblivion as the song drifts toward a peaceful conclusion. The title track similarly makes heavy use of free-form playing, but first it starts off with some really slow, but gripping, drony synth. The tension gets tight when suddenly an attack of timpani and cymbals swell to build the foundation for an onslaught of thick synthesizer solos. Although this 12 minute monster is really considered one piece, there’s a sort of division in the middle that could make it really feel like two songs. The second half delivers the goods, just like the first, but this time its laden with wild jazz drumming while Alex Maguire absolutely destroys us with fascinating piano lines followed by a ripping distorted keyboard. The end result is something very worthy of being the title track.
I know that saying “the rest of the album” makes it sound like I’m speaking chronologically (though I’m not), but the rest of the album offers everything from a wild classic rock rendition to a jazzy ballad and a gothic feeling dirge. “Purple Haze” pays tribute to Hendrix by kicking it off with some fuzz from hell before launching into a fiercely agressive rendition of the classic track; the band really spins this song on its head, instilling in it a sense of chaos and searing agression that would leave good ol’ Jimmy pale as douBt delivers thick distorted organs, untameable drumming and wild leads. While “The Invitation” gives the album a breather with its mellow, more traditional jazz ballad sound, “Tears Before Bedtime” turns the energy up as it skirts the edges of funk, jazz, and rock with thick, dirty keys and wonderful guitar effects. That leaves us with what I consider to be two of the most strange, and cool, pieces on the record: “The Human Abstract” and “Goodbye My Fellow Soldier.” “The Human Abract” leaves us with some very modern sounding avant-jazz, full of demented twists and turns, slow moving melodies, and strange ambient noises (including a section that made me feel like I was underwater!). “Goodbye My Fellow Soldier,” though, really seemed to come out of nowhere and knock me off my feet. There are very few pieces that manage to achieve a dreary, deathly vibe at this level. Very funereal in its essence, “Goodbye Fellow Soldier” is a slow, haunting dirge featuring layers of dark, ambient keyboards and guitars and sporting crawling melodies juxtaposed by a backdrop of soloing drums. Trust me, this is a scare one, so use the restroom first, otherwise you may find that these creepy chord progressions leave you with soiled pants. Definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album.
All around, douBt constantly defines themselves as a band that is hard to define. Right when you think you’ve got them pigeon-holed, they come in with some other wild piece of music that makes you adjust your conception of the music they deliver. “Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love” is an album that will definitely challenge the listener, as I’m sure it challenged the musicians, but those out there with an ambitious ear and a bit of patience will surely find douBt’s latest release to be a treat.