Santeria – Year of the Knife

January 01, 1970

(GolarWash Labs & Records)


Handily straddling several genres/eras at once, from ‘70s
hard rock to ‘80s alt-rock to ‘90s stoner rock, is Louisiana’s Santeria, nominally described
(as the band says on its MySpace page) “swampadelic Southern rock.” Ten years
and four albums into the game, however, the four-piece is far more elastic and
free-ranging than any of those tags might suggest. Amid a cloud of dark, bluesy
minor chords, thunder-on-the-horizon percussion and impassioned, gritty vocals
Santeria comes, mixing together such disparate elements as gothic punk,
churning roots-twang and Cajun and Zydeco (bet ya never imagined a washboard
and accordion – the latter wielded by the legendary Steve Riley of the Mamou
Playboys no less – could sound psychedelic).


The record kicks off with an unapologetic slab of
cowbell-slapping arena rock, the heavy riffing, Thin Lizzy-esque “Come On
Baby.” High points pile up quickly after that: Blackfoot-meets-Pearl Jam
stomper “Nowhere to Go”; mariachi horns/steel guitar-powered “Mexico”;
throbbing, ethereal “Can You Dream,” which with its arpeggiated guitar figure
and yearning/keening vocal from frontman Dege Legg, could pass for a long-lost
mid-‘80s U2 outtake. And on the title track, a droning, hypnotic slice of
psych-tinged freak-folk reminiscent of Sixteen Horsepower’s spooky incantations
and featuring an unsettling spoken word passage from Legg plus a noirish orchestral
coda, the band immerses itself in the voodoo hoodoo of its native region,
conjuring witches, demons and the spirits of the departed.


Admittedly, some of the band’s stylistic mashups don’t
completely convince; plus, default mode for Santeria is the aforementioned
arena rock, which means they might have trouble winning over younger, more
indiecentric audiences weaned on quirkier fare. But with hooks a-plenty and
melodies to die for, Year of the Knife – quietly released last fall and now getting a proper national roll-out – ultimately
goes down easy while retaining the proverbial sharp edges that makes for great
rock anthemism.


Standout Tracks: “You
Got What I Need,” “Year of the Knife” FRED MILLS


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