With exception to the comparably higher budgeted Ghost, no group in the occult rock movement has the same scope and spectacle as Church of the Cosmic Skull. Plenty of other bands have the same adherence to bright 70s-style riffing and organ flourishes, but I’ve not seen a band with such elaborate Beatles-esque vocal work since the early days of King’s X or even ELO. Having seven members in the band makes it easy to achieve such a bombastic sound but even without the extra hands, the Church’s second full-length album Science Fiction would still be just as enjoyable.
The clean presentation certainly helps. While the extensive vocal layering and trade-offs appropriately take center stage, they don’t overwhelm the mix as the instruments all get a chance to be heard. The guitars and keyboards deliver melodies and solos at a balanced rate, and the bass is near omnipresent throughout. There’s nothing heavy or remotely aggressive on here but the immaculate setup is enough to grab one’s attention.
The Church also knows how to use its 70s influences to create some excellent song variety. The keyboard fanfare on the opening title track quickly reminds one of groups like Kansas and Styx, while songs like “Revolution Comes With an Act of Love” and “The Cards That You’re Playing” come in with slow burn blues and “The Others” makes for gorgeous balladry. I also can’t help but find “Cold Sweat” rather amusing; it’s not a Thin Lizzy cover, but boy do the frantic tempo and Lynott-style lead vocals make it sound close to the real thing.
But what really stands out about Church of the Cosmic Skull is their tendency to actively go out of their way to be catchy. Every track includes an attempt at an earworm and even lesser songs will get stuck in your head one way or another. The hooks are a little too repetitive or reliant on the vocal layering at times, but it really highlights how few modern bands strive for this sort of thing in comparison to our ancestors.
Overall, the effort that Church of the Cosmic Skull has put into a smooth presentation of such meticulous song arrangements makes Science Fiction worth checking out for fans of all things 70s rock. The lack of true heaviness and overt provocation may make it seem too fluffy in comparison to their peers, but it’s a pleasant listen that never feels like it’s trying too hard. I bet my mom would really like this.
“Revolution Comes With an Act of Love”
“The Cards That You’re Playing”