Abra Kadavar - KADAVAR

There's something vaguely WOLFMOTHER-ish about KADAVAR's meticulously coiffed beards and retro-authentic wardrobe - not to mention the almost clinical efficiency of their debut album's proto-metal revival - which, at times, felt rather calculating in its taut, clean construction and delivery.

But as the German power trio unveils their second long player, "Abra Kadavar", with nary a major record deal, clothing endorsement, or diet soda synch license in sight, its much improved songs also show a lot of heart, body and soul - all qualities that may help put all previously held suspicions to rest.

Simply put, but a few listens are required for one to asses that KADAVAR's sophomore "jump" is indeed light years removed from the aforementioned Australians' more contrived (and/or heinously co-opted) careerist agenda, if for no other reason than, well, this just ain't Top Forty material.

Rather, "Abra Kadavar" remains faithful to the doomier, dirgier, Kaftan-wearing wardrobe of BLACK SABBATH's first album, which, along with a few other seminal heavy metal pioneers of the day, essentially documented the British blues scene's welcome "corruption" by the nascent '70s' post-Aquarius nightmare and newly available amplification technology (shout out to Jim Marshall!).

And, unlike Sweden's GRAVEYARD, for example, KADAVAR have resisted digging themselves back too far into those Brit-blue templates, pre-1970; embarking, instead, on a daring high-wire walk that both defines the creative philosophy and fuels slowly self-revealing thrills behind typical tracks like "Come Back Life", "Black Snake", and "Dust".

The Berliners also know when to go "back to the future", near and far: on "Doomsday Machine", the timbre of Wolf Lindemann's voice recalls WITCHFINDER GENERAL's Zeeb Parkes (but mercifully stays in tune!); on the remarkably catchy album highlight "Fire", it's Bobby Liebling and his PENTAGRAM crew; while, on other occasions, it's the cryptically named Mammut who provides the secret weapon, via Geezer-esque bass lines that propel "Eye of the Storm", the title cut, and other songs forward.

Also worth noting is that the oft-pronounced psychedelics heard on KADAVAR's debut seem to have been reigned back somewhat; though they wink briefly in the background organ and swirling space guitar of "Liquid Dream", then come back with a vengeance during the hypnotizing wah-wah pedal improv bathing "Rhythm for Endless Minds" (reminiscent of '90s feedback astronauts NOVADRIVER, among others).

By the time "Abra Kadavar" winds down, suspicion has given way to trust, and cynicism to hope - such is the qualitative improvement of KADAVAR's songwriting and convincing fine-tuning of their musical vision, which clearly makes a point of eschewing the pseudo-psych rock fashions, in spite of their questionably picture-perfect image.

We could be proved wrong about this in the long run, but based on the musical evidence at hand, if this is what calculating retro-metal sounds like, then considers us co-opted.

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