HOUDINI Magazine

Erik Houdini

The Bridge City Sinners - Unholy Hymns | An Album Review

In the revolving carousel of musical cadences and transient rhythms that define our collective taste, The Bridge City Sinners have etched an indelible mark on the decaying canvas of the present decade. Their latest magnum opus, 2021's 'Unholy Hymns', captures the tempestuous spirit of a fading American empire like a stark monochrome photograph trapped in a time capsule. They serve as the troubadours of our troubled times, their mournful refrains echoing the lamentations of a world on the precipice, much like the plaintive ballads of Woodie Guthrie resonated with the desolation of the Great Depression.

This collection of dark bluegrass Americana refracts the harsh realities of our era through its haunting melodies. Their songs serve as harbingers of the apocalypse, a danse macabre set against the backdrop of escalating violence, ecological collapse, and the burdens of an existence growing increasingly arduous. A ghastly symphony of sound, it rouses the visions of the cataclysm we witness daily - not ones imagined by Hollywood, but the desolate reality we endure. The harrowing strains of "The Devil's Swing" seem plucked straight from the discordant symphony of our impending doom.

Next, we plunge into the cold river water with "Rock Bottom", a melancholic ode to the pervasive companion we know as depression. A seamless blend of haunting Western instrumentals and traditional bluegrass that crafts a hauntingly beautiful echo of our times, it strikes a nerve in an era where 300 Americans fall prey to Fentanyl overdose daily, and our world teeters on the brink of ecological collapse. The song illustrates humanity's insatiable capacity for self-destruction, yet it also resonates with our stubborn resilience, underlining our will to live in its profound proclamation: "There ain't no rock bottom for me; rock bottom is only 6 feet deep."

The Bridge City Sinners then transport us to "The Departed", a merry tune that serves as a grim portrayal of inebriated oblivion and eternal damnation. This sonic spectacle is woven from the essence of America's spirit, evoking images of North Carolina, the Bayou, the Appalachians, and the Pacific Northwest. It distills the flavor of Americana, akin to a moonshine concocted from the despair of our dystopian times. The band hails from Portland, yet their sound transcends geographical boundaries, capturing the spirit of an America steeped in despair and defiance.

In the auditory tapestry of the Bridge City Sinners, Libby Lux's vocals emerge as an ethereal thread, drawing rightful comparisons to legends such as Amy Winehouse and Ella Fitzgerald. Her talent is evident throughout, especially in "Devil Like You". The male backing vocals provide a robust complement, yet it is clear that Lux's extraordinary ability forms the backbone of the Sinners' unique sound. The sound evokes everything from deep south trailer parks to underground speakeasies, to the moonshiners supplying them.

The Sinners showcase their mastery over diverse instrumental forms in "Love of Mine", delivering a vibrant fusion of sublime fiddle work, dexterous picking, and a bass breakdown reminiscent of a relentless locomotive blazing down the tracks. "The Legend of Olog-hai" provides a momentary "respite" from the pervading despair, replacing it with narrative songwriting, horror themes, and guttural growls reminiscent of black metal. These tracks draw us back to a primal, wild America, a throwback to an ancient time that feels as raw and untamed as Clovis-era America.

"The Fear", the album's pulse-quickening standout track, teems with a Lovecraftian sense of horror, with the true subject of the dread remaining enigmatically veiled, yet chillingly resonant. It stands as an eerie anthem of our age, a testament to the intangible terror that seeps into every crevice of our lives. This song is incredibly danceable despite it's eldritch themes though.

The grim march of "The Damned" resounds through the barren landscape of the album, carrying a message as unyielding as the relentless desert sun. It serves as a lamentation to our collective fate, a melancholic hymn to the inevitable doom that we, the wretched heirs of the Anthropocene, have wrought upon ourselves. It is an unflinching admission that we are the damned ones, those left behind to suffer the flagellation humanity has inflicted upon our nurturing mother earth at the altar of insatiable consumption and fossil fuel gluttony.

The song concludes with a damning statement, an unsparing indictment of our unworthiness: "you're not worthy of God's light". It echoes through the ensuing silence, leaving behind a haunting specter of our damnation. This bleak melody is like a mirror held up to the face of humanity, reflecting the terrible visage of our own destruction.

From the haunting dirge of "The Damned", the album takes a final, transformative leap with "Unholy Hymns". This track reclaims hope from despair, rising defiantly from the ashes of a world burnt by humanity's own folly. It resounds with a resolute refrain: "Do not pray for my sins, I'm going down singing unholy hymns," as if to say, even as the world burns, we refuse to go quietly into the night. We march towards the abyss, not with resignation, but with our voices raised in an unholy chorus, a testament to our indomitable spirit, a challenge to the relentless tide of fate. The closing trio of songs, "The Fear", "The Damned" and "Unholy Hymns", paint a harrowing image of mankind's damnation, and the bleak acceptance of our impending doom

Thus, 'Unholy Hymns' stands as a sonic monument amidst the desolation of our time, a poignant chronicle of despair and resilience, a testament to the enduring spirit of humanity amidst the wilderness of our dystopian reality. It serves as a stark reminder that even in the shadow of the apocalypse, the heart beats, the lungs breathe, and the voice sings - Unholy Hymns.

You can pick up the album on Bandcamp, and I recommend you do.