If you’ve been lucky enough to meet “Seventh Moon” – the mesmerizing lead single from The Door Behind the Door – down at the crossroads already you’d be forgiven for having high hopes for the Black Ryder’s second album. The string-soaked sobfest “Moon” is like the avenging angels swooping out of the beyond during the finale of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Beautiful but pant-fillingly petrifying. You know it’ll melt your face but you just..can’t…look…away. As ethereal and transcendental as Sigur Rós’ “Svefn-G-Englar”. One hit and you’ll be floating across the cosmos toward an anesthetized afterlife where angels’ll stroke your soul forever. “We are / We are / Unbreakable”. Oh sweet savior what other devilish delights lurk behind the door behind the door? Knock! Knock! Letttt ussss innnnn….
Well behind the door, er, ‘behind the door’ there’s not a lot actually. Well other than a big bowl of disappointment. Although it kisses the hour, there’s a modest nine tracks behind the keyhole(s), one of which (“Babylon”) can immediately be, well, shown the door as it’s a fleeting “Is this thing on?” warm up. The life expectancy of its siblings may hover around the widescreen, six-minute mark but even then there’s little to make you swear allegiance and “Drink the Kool Aid”.
Since their raucous debut Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride, Aussie sweethearts Scott Von Ryper and Aimee Nash have split and moved to LA ,with Nash recently marrying the Cult’s Ian ‘Wolfchild’ Astbury. Ah-Whooo! Perhaps fitting an ex-couple, Door finds our twosome passing the mic almost on a song-by-song ‘rotational’ basis. Yup, like a pet on alternate weekends. By far though, it’s the Nash dominated tracks that prove most alluring. After her magnificent “Moon”, “Let Me Be Your Light” straps on some Joy Division low bass and rumbles around a celestial chorus. “If you’ll let me be your light / Shining down on you”, she beckons like some dark angel striding down the stairwell of an E.T. Mothership. As we clamber inside, blinded by the lights, violins, church bells and waves of outstretched wings, there’s a worrying “We can DESTROY and conquer ALL!” but it’s too late. You’re in and under.
The cheekily titled “Throwing Stones” doesn’t quite “boldly go where no man has gone before” but it’s a pleasant diversion. Let’s be honest, though, it’s the Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” in all but name. Acoustic redemption around a Joshua Tree campfire. Gram Parsons’ ghost likely rolling a doobie just out of shot whilst Primal Scream’s Bobby G parades his finger-wagging dance around the flames. If that wasn’t familiar enough, Nash, again dressed as ‘The Healer’, unleashes a smorgasbord of clichéd asides. “You got me and you know I got you!”. “Let your love shine on!”. “Move on to some higher ground!”. “If you want to be free!!”. Such is the colossal roll-call of “Gotta Catch ’em All” stock rock phrases, it’s hard not to leap up and scream “BINGO!”. Elsewhere the blurry strum of “All That We Are” resurrects Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm” with a soupçon of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major”. Foggy, floaty and, er, feedback. There’s a gently weeping guitar and aching vintage keys buried in the ether but it just drifts by, slowly and without incident, as you smile and nod politely.
Unfortunately it’s when Von Ryper takes center stage that Door becomes most creaky. The doleful, heads-down “The Going Up Was Worth the Coming Down” feels like the intro to “Hotel California” on a loop, spinning in ever-decreasing circles. Its narrator is a busted flush, “striking out”, “winding up” and “looking down”. A spiraling stairway to hell, the Sunday morning coming down and “I’m wishing Lord, that I was stoned”. Even a wizardy “Day In The Life” climax can’t revive this one. “Santaria Pts 1 & 2” IS the Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey”. But not as good obviously. A Ronettes’ ripping ‘Kick, Kick-Kick, SNARE!’ backbeat? Ragged guitar in reverb overdose? A drawl that’s all “Whattaya-got?” attitude, leathers and bubblegum? ALL-IN! Nash kindly throws him a “I’ll walk with you” outro through the valley o’ death but it’s such well trodden terrain it seems spooflike. It’ll take all of your willpower not to don your Ray Bans and caterwaul, “In her honey dripping behiiiivee“.
The elegiac “Until The Calm of Dawn” sees the UFO’s return, with added Scooby Doo theremin, but there’s already a feeling this party’s DOA. By this point Ryper is staggering through the mist mumbling “Just medicate and close your eyes” whilst winding a ballerina toybox and fumbling for the exit. Somewhere a string quartet plays and Nash’s disembodied voice calls over the Tannoy “Don’t cry / Don’t hurt yourself”. Time to make like a banana and split.
As underwhelming as this is, it’s the grand finale that delivers the knockout wrecking ball to the knackers of hope. The appropriately titled “(Le Dernier Sommeil) The Final Sleep” is TWELVE minutes long. A self-indulgent, ambient instrumental with aspirations of Blade Runner. Or The Phantom Menace. Two minutes in you suspect nothing’s going to happen. By eight minutes you’re on your knees sobbing, “Why, Lord, why?”. By the twelfth you’re in a vegetative cocoon. Sanity is a stranger. Perhaps Nash and Ryper buggered off down the boozer and accidentally left the tapes running? Pah! Survive “Sleep” and your heroism (see also: foolishness) reaps no reward. Not even a childish cackle from Beelzebub himself who’s clearly just spent the last 12 minutes of your life taking the piss.
Over a derivative, drawn-out hour much of the great expectations for The Door Behind The Door slowly and sadly ebb away. The Black Ryder were wise to ‘ryde’ on from the raw swagger of yore but in their eagerness to ‘break on through to the other side’ they’ve left some crucial things behind. The songs and the spark. Nightcrawlers, do a ‘smash and grab’ for the supernatural “Seventh Moon” (“Let Me Be Your Light” too) then boot open both bloody doors and run to the light.