Saturnalia – BBC
by Helen Groom
15 February 2008
With a gestation period almost as long as an elephant, The Gutter Twins have finally released their first offering, Saturnalia, an ominous, raw, dark sounding album that scorches itself into your eardrums. The Gutter Twins are long time alt rock legends Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs), both of who have been collaborating with myriad musical partners in the years since their former outfits met their demise. Lanegan most notably partnered with Isobel Campbell on the Mercury nominated Ballad Of The Broken Seas.
Combining traditional rock grandstanding, with twisted undertones, a smattering of blues and the finest traditions of American alt rock, Saturnalia is not an album that will pick up your spirits, but there is a beauty to be found in something that seems sound of the more painful corners of life.
Lead single Idle Hands has an album-typical darkness to it, with an almost satantic sounding, stadium-sized guitar riff underpinning lyrics of love and suffering intertwined. It’s the sound that listeners with a tendency towards head banging will have been waiting for.
Even in the murky feel to Saturnalia, there is a variety in the sounds and influences. Circle The Fringes begins with a softer feel, but before long the ominous, oppressive atmosphere creeps in, exploding in a ferocious scrawl of guitars. In contrast, I Was In Love With You has a fantastic layered approach, with echoes of a Beatles-esque sound found inside a swirling, anthemic ode to heartbreak.
Who Will Lead Us and Seven Stories Underground, both of which have a bluesier feel, but still hold discordant undertones, while Each to Each has a whiff of Electronica about it.
Saturnalia is never less than music on a grand scale. It’s about the depths of rawness; of soulful words wrapped up in alt rock forms. It is a sound full of passion that feels as if it will only be fully unleashed when played on stage. If only all alt rock was a good as this.