Band: Panic Priest
Label: Negative Gain
Jack Armondo – Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Synth, Programming
on record: Toph McNeil (programming) + special guests
A captivating self titled release from Chicago shadow minstrel Jack Armondo hits like a velvet coated brick with it’s power and beauty. As a musician when you ask another musician for feedback of course they are always drawn first and foremost to the thing they play. Therefore when I find a record with a truly gifted and unique sounding vocalist who writes great lyrics I am hooked. That’s how it was with Panic Priest. Jack has a voice that leaps in front of the music and leaves you entranced. You hear familiar elements in the style. A bit of Andrew Eldrich in that dark flowing wail, coupled the grit and soul of Peter Steele, you even hear the sorrowful beauty of Andy Deane. When it all blends together and crawls out of your speakers like a seductive demon creeping towards you, it becomes something of it’s own. This is no pure front man either. Jack is an accomplished musician who takes all of the writing and music on himself. The guitar work is a precise needle bouncing in time with the velvet curtain and rising synth sounds, they shimmer over a dark pool of bass building a story of sound and human frailty. The themes are aesthetic and heartbroken and they drip from a landscape which changes from song to song as quickly as the range in Jack’s voice. I have had the good fortune to share a stage with Jack and it is an incredible experience to witness live. I found myself even more impressed with his guitar playing than his unique and memorizing voice. It’s hard to pick out stand out tracks because the production is exquisite and every song is powerful and elegant. For the sake of whatever professionalism I front at I will try.
I find as time has gone on and I hear this record again and again I am struck by the fact that the sound matches the human making it. That isn’t always true but this album flows with an organic and genuine energy. It is deeply personal and gives you an experience of sharing in someone closest held self when you listen to his music. It’s one of those records you need to sit down alone with to truly appreciate. It is layered, it is lovely, and it unlocks self reflection.
Sideways – The opening track, this song is so catchy it haunts me rather in my ears at that moment or in my head later that day. Jack’s wails a chorus that speaks of familiar heartbreak. “Strange to say, think of me sideways” The drum beat jumps about light and enthralling for a true slow goth club jam. Swing your arms and fling your head about. I could hear this track 1 million times and it would never be enough.
Die Divine – This leans into the keyboards more and lets Armondo croon with a tenderness of a forgotten age while the chiming church bells of the keys fill the room. This is the soundtrack of city street walking in the rain. It bleeds isolation and echos a subtlety that makes you reach for it instead of coming for you.
Velvet Cage – Here you really hear that First Last and Always percussion guitar. The drums have an urgent speed. The vocals wrap it all in that voice which stares into your eyes unblinking. I love the concept of that beautiful cage we place ourselves in.
If you haven’t gotten from my over the top gushing yet, this album needs your attention. This is a band that has the something extra which is both definable and undefined. I originally wrote this review before this page existed and it remains one of the best things I have discovered in the modern dark music scene. I can’t recommend enough.