Book II, the sequel to the eponymously named Rausch's 2009 debut, picks up where that offering left off. Rausch is again joined by long-term collaborators, fellow-Philadelphian Joe Fine on bass and Chris Ruffini putting in a powerful shift on drums, though it does no disservice to the contributions of those two gentlemen to note that it is the collaboration between Rausch and Shadow Gallery's standout guitarist Gary Wehrkamp which gives this band its centre of gravity.
Piano player and leader Doug Rausch doesn't shy away from the raw and brutal aspects of life. Yet while the lyrics predominantly expose dark themes to harsh, honest scrutiny, the musical effect is a joy to listen to. Strong songwriting sits at the heart of this complex, emotional and ambitious endeavour which stylistically celebrates rock'n'roll in all its diversity, leading producer Rich Mouser to describe Rausch as “Queen-on-speed.” The Queen influence is evident on opening track Greener Grass, a rocker, whose upbeat mood is belied by the downbeat lyric “I'm stuck, I'm f*cked.” Ryo Okumoto from Spock's Beard supplements Rausch's piano superbly with some prog keyboard expansiveness setting the album off to a flyer. Compare to Drain an epic of introspection, the raw stripped down sound, builds up over 10 minutes to a searing, howling climax and then is bathetically stripped back again or Irked a savage brooding snarl of resentment tinged with jazzy blues piano and guitar from Wehrkamp's stablemate Brendt Allman, breaking out into coruscating metal-syle lead guitar and all the while over an insistent, menacing bass line. It is difficult to pick out all the highlights from this release, or as Rausch would probably put it, least lowlights. Suffice to say that Good Day for Rausch isn't what most of us would think and the atmospheric The End is probably best avoided by those of a fragile disposition. While Time Out starts off almost whimsically in indie singer-songwriter mode, Speechless hurls the listener into a maelstrom of metal guitar and frantic machine-gun drums.
What marks this release out, apart from the outstanding musicianship, the great hooks and the sheer bloody minded quality, gestated over the last 9 years is that all the little bits matter. Rausch refuses to get stuck in a style and plough anyone's furrow. There is a confection box aspect to this collection, and I don't mean that in a bad way. You really don't know what is coming next, or how you went from A to B. What can be guaranteed is that it will be high class. The overall effect, for all of Rausch's demons is exhilarating.
***** Andrew Cottrell
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