Saturnalia – NYU News

NYUNews.com
4 stars

The Gutter Twins is Greg Dulli (The Afghan Whigs, The Twilight Singers) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age). These indie-rock legends have worked together throughout their careers, making “Saturnalia” a natural collaboration. It has its share of grim moments, with its two frontmen trading dour vocals throughout the record. But moments of fragile beauty emerge from the disc’s whiskey-drenched haze.

A somewhat religious fervor marks opener “The Stations,” with its references to God and wordless exaltations. But the Twins contains this energy for the first few songs by keeping them at a mid-tempo pace, waiting until “Idle Hands” to unleash a full blast. A muscular guitar riff and abrasive chanting mark that song as the template for what most would assume “Saturnalia” would sound like. But Lanegan and Dulli are too smart to stick to such an obvious format.

The majority of “Saturnalia” is characterized by restraint. Electronic beats leisurely carry the later songs, while ones without the wails resemble acoustic ballads. The vocals are impassioned, but never go over the top. Both men have perfected the howl, and they use it with discretion. “Saturnalia” is not missing Dulli and Lanegan’s trademark darkness, but it remains shockingly accessible.

– Roland Li

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