Man’s Gin might not be a metal band, but the dark and primarily acoustic fare it provides is frequently grimmer than a funeral doom festival. The liquor-soaked murder balladry of frontman Erik Wunder and company doesn’t come with avidly anti-human ire, yet Man’s Gin’s latest album, Rebellion Hymns, is just as ominous as Wunder’s work with his other band—famed black metal duo, Cobalt.
Man’s Gin tells late-night, black-eyed stories, in which Wunder is joined by upright bass/e-bow player Josh Lozano, and guitarist/pianist Scott Edward. The band released its first album, 2010’s Smiling Dogs, to plenty of applause, and Rebellion Hymns mixes similarly grungy Americana acoustics (think Alice in Chains unplugged and markedly more unhinged) with poeticism reminiscent of Tom Waits and Nick Cave.
The new album features guest appearances from Yakuza’s Bruce Lamont, Wunder’s Cobalt co-conspirator Philip McSorley, and ex-Swans vocalist Jarboe, and it is darker and more eclectic than the band’s debut. “Varicose” and “Inspiration” capture stark and shattered dreams; “Never Do the Neon Lights” fleshes out the rustic acoustics with a boisterous bar jam; and the glitchy idiosyncrasy of “Off the Coast of Sicily” shows there’s plenty of Cobalt’s avant-garde willfulness in Man’s Gin too. The band, and guests, have come up with an album that’s utterly compelling, but once again it’s Wunder’s world-weary vocals that sell the truth of his tales.