Poor Ozzy Osbourne. There was a time when he was a rock star of the highest order, producing thunderous metal with Black Sabbath. But today’s adolescent demographic — the demographic he energized in the ’70s — knows him only as Jack Osbourne’s dad and the guy who gets outwitted by trash bags and remote controls on MTV. But fear not, Mr. Osbourne, Queens of the Stone Age have once again made it cool for guys to wear their hair long and say things like, "Hell yeah, I watch Headbanger’s Ball, bro." And so has Washington D.C.’s Dead Meadow, which has, with its third proper album, Shivering King and Others, planted its flag firmly at the forefront of the ’70s rock revival.
If QOTSA’s energetic rock is well suited for beer drinkers, then Shivering King is designed for rockers who once tried to make a bong out of your cat. The lengthy tracks owe much to the sensibilities of ’60s psychedelia, the band’s buzzing guitar sound simulating what would have passed for hi-fi back in the day. Jason Simon’s vocals often reverberate and dissolve into the wall of sound washing over the album as he weaves tales of shadowy figures, fire, fanged creatures, and many other staples of stoner rock lore.
Though the title track reads like a Cliffs Notes for The Lord of the Rings, the album isn’t all demon imagery and menacing guitars. Acoustic guitars find a home every now and then — "Heaven" is downright gorgeous — and a few Zeppelin-esque blues epics break up the drone of power chords. But the trio is clearly at its best when hitting the low notes, as awkward lyrics like "I don’t know the way love flows/ The way it comes, the way it goes" sound more at home in a bubblegum pop tune than someone trying to take the baton from the Dark Lord.
When the tracks on Shivering King miss their mark, their length magnifies the misstep. But more often, like the best rock epics of the ’70s, the album creates self-sufficient worlds to immerse the listener in. Sabbath and Zeppelin play Raymond Chandler to Dead Meadow’s James Ellroy: they shaped the world of dark rock ‘n’ roll, but now Dead Meadow is here to build on the genre,. They work on their own terms and end up with an enticing blend of comfort food for classic rockers.