jesters of destiny The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown (LP, £19.95)label: Ektro
It was 30 years ago that Jesters of Destiny's Fun at the Funeral debut was released on the short-lived Metal Blade subsidiary Dimension Records. A year later, they released the all-covers record In a Nostalgic Mood, after which the band was unceremoniously hacked from the Metal Blade stable and, unable to land another deal for their third album, No Laughing Matter, they quietly disappeared, with all the main participants going on to other pursuits. All these years later, Jesters of Destiny are back with The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown, an all-new record of the kind of hard rock/metal that only they made. This poses the question: Why? Bruce Duff and Ray Violet, the co-band leaders and production team behind everything the band recorded, are as perplexed as everyone else. "Ray and I were recording new material independently at home, and we sent each other some things and said, 'These seem like songs the Jesters would do,'" says Bruce. "So we started making more, and getting more people involved, and all of a sudden-it was anything but sudden, actually-it seemed like we were making a Jesters of Destiny album." In the subsequent years from the original days of the Jesters, Bruce went on to play with the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs, Angus Khan, the Adz (Adolescents), Jeff Dahl, and producing the likes of Prima Donna and Thor. Ray produced God Lives Underwater, Tim Harrington (Masters of Reality), Rozz Williams and engineered R&B legends the Temptations, Shalamar and By All Means. Both always held the Jesters as a high point in their careers, certainly creatively if not commercially. Indeed, the Jesters might have been just a bit ahead of the curve. According to Wikipedia and Allmusic.com (and even a Creem Metal interview from the band's own time), Jesters of Destiny were quite possibly the first 'Alternative Metal' band. Ray and Bruce always wondered, "What exactly is Alternative Metal, anyway?" "Our music always had a lot of elements in it, whatever was around that we were listening to," recalls Ray. "Black Sabbath mingled with Prince in our world, along with Jane's Addiction and the Chocolate Watch Band. If we liked it, it went into the mix." This is still true today, with The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown bookended by the thunder-riffs of "Fire in the Six Feet Hole" and "Another Fire Six Feet Deep." Along the way, there's the soundscape "Ladies of Runyon Canyon," the mini-documentary of "The Misunderstood," a recasting of Screaming Lord Sutch's very first single "'Til the Following Night," and even a waltz with no drums, "Happy Ending." "We always called what we did Gleeful Gloom," notes Bruce. "With 30 years of real life since Funeral, we might be leaning a bit more on the gloom side. We wanted to lighten the load at the end, hence 'Happy Ending.' Also, however deep we lean into our own trials, Ray still really likes songs about the devil. If it ain't broke..." The Sorrows that Refuse to Drown is being issued on vinyl, and digitally on CD and download/streaming. The vinyl and digital versions are different from each other. The CD has different mixes of two of the songs, and three songs not on the vinyl, including a cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Two Minutes Silence." "It took some work for us to get that one just right," confirms Ray. In 2014, Fun at Funeral was reissued for the second time, courtesy of current label home Ektro Records. Here's some critical assessment: "Having put out only one album and an EP before calling it quits in the late 1980s, the band's sound was far too amorphous for its time, straddling too many disparate musical styles a full decade before genre-bending became fashionable in metal and hard rock. Their 1986 album has been reissued by the excellent Ektro Records, and listening to it today, you can hear how well it's aged. Rooted in metal but never afraid to venture into punk, college rock, and psychedelia - you can totally hear the Flaming Lips in places - it's a remarkably prescient record." -Adrien Begrand, Decibel magazine. "During the promotional life of the album, (Jesters of Destiny) shared stages with Jane's Addiction, the Dickies, Flaming Lips, L.A. Guns, Jetboy, the Fuzztones and Thelonious Monster, demonstrating both how wide the Jesters' style could venture, and how diverse the California scene was at the time. Nowadays, most histories boil Cali hard rock down to the emerging thrash scene growing out of Ruthie's Inn in Berkeley and the hair metal coming out of the Hollywood clubs such as Gazzarri's. (Of course, the Jesters played both.)" -Poncho, New Noise.
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