Saturnalia – The Big Issue in the North

4/5 Stars by Lianne Steinberg

Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers’ Greg Dulli always brought a little soul-shaking sass to alternative rock while his compatriot, Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan, excelled in giving grunge some blues. Moving on from the odd musical dalliance with one anther into a full partnership, The Gutter Twins allows the pair to fly full pelt into soul-searching darkness. In fact, it seems that the collaborative nature of this album has forced them to leave their personal demons behind and look to salvation on a grander scale.

Musically, there are recognisable codas from their previous work, mostly thanks to the guest appearances of several of Dulli’s long-time collaborators. Conventional arrangements have been thrown out of the window and although there’s a certain epic Quality to Saturnalia, the songs are muted by shadowy tones thanks to cello, mellotron, organ and tops. Idle Hands stands up as a forthright punch in the guts. Opening wiht a repeated, strangled rallying cry of “Hey!” Lanegan’s gravel-scraping voice channels the devil before Dulli takes it up a notch with a glorious chord change. Who Will Lead Us? rings out like an old plantation song and leads perfectly into the churning reflection on mortality of Seven Stories Underground. As a musical exploration into the universe’s spiritual cracks, you couldn’t wish for two better tour guides.

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