Artist: Christopher Steve
Album: Taken By The Tide
Release Date: 26/02/2021
Country: United States
Let’s take a look at Christopher Steve‘s debut full-length album Taken By The Tide, set to be independently released on February 26th.
Christopher Steve was created in 2016 as an alter ego for Chris Latta (Lavaborne, ex-Spirit Division and a writer for Ghost Cult Magazine) for him to explore experimental folk doom and play with elements of blues and Americana. As mentioned, this is his first full-length album and follows the project’s debut EP Hope For Winter. While this is a solo project, there are PLENTY of guest artists who make appearances throughout the release, who I will list below:
David Gabe – Guitar solo on Sacred Catharsis
Patrick Phillips – Electric Guitar and Synth on American Ruins
Freddie Rodriguez (Lavaborne, Mask of Sanity) – Keyboard on Break For You
Max Barber (Lavaborne, Mask of Sanity, Charonyx) – Second guitar solo on Eternity
The project has an unusual sound to it, sitting as mentioned part way between doom and folk music. The influence of blues music and americana are also audibly present throughout the album. For me the thing that really made the album stand out would have to be the fact that the overall tone and energy of the album is very much that of a doom release, however the instrumentals are very much folk based. The vocals on the album sit halfway between the two realms and help to unify the two sounds. The album has a constant yet varied overall atmosphere of emotion. Which emotion is being portrayed is a complicated question as this changes and progresses as the songs themselves do. The themes on the release are equally as varied and cover topics ranging from abortion rights and the downfall of American society as well as more traditional dark folk topics.
The instrumentation on the release is fantastic, both by Chris and by his guest musicians. The fact that he had these artists bring such varied elements to the release, from cellos and mandolins to guitar and keyboard helps each track to be that much more interesting and unique. Each of these songs as a result has elements that others on the album don’t, giving the release as a whole a sense of constant progression and change. Chris’s acoustic guitar work on the release is fantastic and is played at a tuning and tempo that gives it a bluesy folk feel to it. His vocals are as mentioned a mix somewhere between folk and doom and this gives them a real emotional depth that carries over into the music overall. There is a real power behind them, but also a more emotional side. Personally, I find them soothing and relaxing, while also being engaging and captivating.
Some songs on the album fit far more firmly into the folk category, such as track 5 I Am A Clinic Escort and the over 7 minute epic track 10 Eternity. Then others such as track 6 American Ruins are very much doom but with some folk influences. Other tracks are far more of an even blend between the two such as track 3 Denial or Delight which clearly draws on influences from both. Songs like I Medicate take a much more bluesy turn, while also incorporating folk and doom elements.
Overall, I found this to be a very interesting listen. As someone who loves both dark folk and blues and who is a huge doom fan, this ticked a lot of my boxes. It’s quite different to what I was expecting when looking at Chris’s other bands, but I guess that’s the mark of a good artist, having a large range and being able to put out a diverse range of music. Even if you aren’t a fan of these styles of music, give the album a listen as it may surprise you.
Listen to and order the album below: