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Boomkat Product Review:
For those not already caught up in the buzz surrounding this release, the first thing to point out is that the album charts the combined efforts of ex-Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli, formerly of the Afghan Whigs. These two Sub Pop stalwarts have previously collaborated via The Twilight Singers project, but Saturnalia marks their first full-length outing together. Lanegan's voice is well on its way to the sort of weathered authority commanded by Tom Waits, fast becoming one of the great world-weary baritones of his generation. While no less emotionally resonant, Dulli's comparatively fresh-sounding vocal chords necessarily lift you out of the gruff darkness and tall shadows cast by Lanegan on songs like 'All Misery / Flowers' and the immensely powerful opener 'The Stations'. As an introduction to the album, that latter song is resolutely bleak, sounding like a symphonic, apocalyptic reinterpretation of 'Gimme Shelter', but the sheer quality of the music and performances elevates the material from the grim depths. Taking a marginally more upbeat slant, pieces along the lines of 'The Body' (featuring backing vocals from Martina Topley-Bird) are at least partially removed from the windswept desolation of the album's dominant tone. You really wouldn't want these guys to lighten up too much though: the excellent Dulli-led 'Circle The Fringes' announces itself with a swirl of glissando strings, spiralling around a central drone tone before the main body of the song fires up. It's these gestures toward harmonic upset that keep the dark heart of this album beating, mirroring the maudlin intensity of the lyrical content. Highly recommended.