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Retrofiles #2: The Apostles Of Agony, Skeleton Brain (Illucid Recordings, 1971)
The Apostles Of Agony was guitar legend Drick Derd’s first major label group, one he formed and disbanded only weeks before founding Mystic Biscuit.
With Skeleton Brain, Derd and his hard rock leanings had free reign: after two records as a part of Soul Spirit, he was beginning to feel constrained by that band’s focus on vocal harmony and yearned to stretch his legs and his growing guitar chops. Recorded over a three day period in August of 1971, Skeleton Brain was a raw, bare knuckle affair with a down and dirty approach and a filthy sound. Drums have pop and the bass is punchy while the guitar grinds and growls. The legendary cramped quarters of Mudd’s Music Studio is put to good use as the band sounds remarkably solid; not just tight, as in well rehearsed, but three dimensional. Maybe it’s the trippy surround fx, but it gives the songs an interesting air, lending the album its own space.
Former Crappy Hat bassist Hoy St. Petard got in his shedding along with drummer and sadist Hertyu Fawrfon; both men would go on to form the world’s first digital cockfighting simulator, an enormous success in Peru in the 1990s and New Jersey in the early 2000s. The two often lock horns, doing furious battle in “Man’s Worst Friend,” both pounding and battling each other until the guitar solo finish.
Derd also handles the vocal duties, but it’s only out of necessity: purportedly, bad weather forced future Biscuit singer Richie Blackless to miss the recording sessions.
And what sessions: kicking off with “Lighter Fluid,” the album tears along at breakneck speed, Derd’s guitar leaving skid marks on your ears. No longer sitting on all his riffs and raffs, Derd is a jack in the box, releasing years of simmering guitar experiments, or “recipes,” over the primal truck ride of St. Petard and Fawrfon.
“Bone Meal” has possibly the record’s worst lyric (“yeah baby gettin’ time to eat, let’s put your ass back on the street”) but the melody is surprisingly solid and besides, it’s all done with so much gusto that it’s infectious. There’s an alternately interesting and ridiculous drum and bass solo under guitar bombing in “Scars and Scrapes,” Derd wisely leaving the song instrumental. There’s a hint of groove-cool with “Rocks In My Head” and its slow pump; with his previous band, St. Petard bassed Yarnface to the top of the stairs in the biggest live venue in town. “Death’s Doormat” crunches and sizzles like a five star grill fire while the proto-metal chug of “Your Blood Is My Rainbow” is a highlight, closing the album like some headbanging whirling dervish complete with gong and violin.
Legendary Drick Derd’s Skeleton Brain should be more familiar to rock fans, The Apostles Of Agony as good as any classic rock station fodder band, if not livelier than most.