Album Review: King Tuff – Black Moon Spell

Kyle Thomas unabashedly revels in his penchant for glam rock. Performing under the name King Tuff, the Vermont singer and guitarist doesn’t shy away from the ostentatious. As part of the psych folk outfit Feathers and the metal group Witch, Thomas constructed a flair built on the hazy nostalgia of ’60s and ’70s rock. It wasn’t until he branched out as a solo artist that he catapulted his classic rock disposition into a magnetism all its own, something worthy of stadium-size vehemence.

Now, with Black Moon Spell, Thomas seizes that amphetamine groove and launches it into a glittering explosion. It’s an album whose fiber is built on the smoky cigarette haze of a dimly lit dive bar — best served with whiskey and a raucous crowd. Even through charges of distortion and screeching, fuzzed-out guitar, the hooks are catchy as hell, churning out infectiously sunny waves and sharply angled guitars. Thomas’ energy is palpable, and his magnetism smacks of the nervy core of late ’70s rock.

Amid the low, rumbling buzz of the opening title track, it’s immediately evident you’re headed on an intoxicating venture. Extolling this, Thomas leads into the heart of the album, eventually bursting into the lushly extravagant “Headbanger”. Over jarring, classic riffs and psychedelic, sludgy guitars, he sings with the excitable vigor of his classic rock predecessors. His hooks are consistent and tight — fueling the mythic rock god status he so eagerly aims for. It’s a glitter-emblazoned nod to the glory of vinyl rock in its heyday, and Thomas executes it with an intensified energy. There’s a clear enjoyment in experiencing the speed-addled rendition of his iconic influences and an undeniable charm. One particularly strong example is “Demon from Hell, in which a frenetic drum pace accompanies a cranked-up guitar riff, offset by Thomas’ savage, melodic vocals.

While Thomas exhibits a proclivity for a seasoned genre of rock, the immaturity bleeds through in his lyrics. In “I Love You Ugly”, he strums a puerile ode to blind love over a tight, crackling bass line. “I don’t care if you hate your face, say you look like toxic waste … I love you ugly.” The musings are vapid at best. In “Eyes of the Muse”, which revels amid a mellow, sunny guitar hum, Thomas sings, “There is no other when I am with her … I always love her, I always miss her.” Though catchy and blown-out, the tracks often suffer the shortcomings of a lyrical vacuity. Nonetheless, there is a consistent catchiness to them that exonerates many of the shortcomings.

According to the press release issued by Thomas, no one knows how Black Moon Spell came to be. “It just appeared one day and demanded heavy rock music and meatball subs.” And, true to form, the album commands nothing less than the gluttonous nature of its mainspring: a hearty, robust experience that demands an insatiable appetite.

Essential Tracks: “Headbanger”, “Demon from Hell”, and “Eyes of the Muse”


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