Echoing into the ethers for what feels like an eternity, the opening chords of the aptly-titled “Notational Witchery” might not seem like the most elaborate of any you’ll hear on the new record from Darren Michael Boyd, the instrumental Lifting the Curse,” but they turn out one of the more captivating melodies on this incredible LP just the same. In Lifting the Curse, Boyd pushes the limits of rock n’ roll guitar as hard as he can, often incorporating a heavy metal mentality into the harmonies and replacing traditional lyrics with leads that say way more than words ever could by themselves.
While there might not be any verses for us to breakdown in this album, Darren Michael Boyd honestly does not need to them to make a point in tracks like “The Earth is B flat,” “Was it something I said?,” “This song won’t get played on the radio” and “Music in the Murder House.” In songs like these, and really the other five that join them on Lifting the Curse, there’s so much action going on just in the chemistry between the instruments that adding a vocalist into the mix would have been straight up overwhelming (not to mention wholly unnecessary from most every angle).
Lifting the Curse enjoys one of the sharper production qualities an indie record can have without sounding like it was designed as a play for mainstream adulation. There’s definitely not a lot of varnish for us to have to sit and sift through in order to get to the actual substance of the tones in tracks like “Tails & Entrails,” the title cut and opener “Circle of Sixes,” but there’s a ton of attention to detail in spots that other artists would just as soon overlook altogether without a second thought.
I would have opened the album with “The Earth is B flat” instead of “Circle of Sixes,” but I can definitely understand why Darren Michael Boyd decided to stack this record’s tracklist the way that he did. There’s a great overall flow to all of the songs here, and in some ways, having “The Earth is B flat” right where it is creates a little more tension moving into the middle of the LP (which, to be fair, is a terrific way of making sure that listeners are going to stay with you from the first bar to the last few strands of melodicism in the title track).
Though I had not heard Darren Michael Boyd’s music prior to now, I’m eager to hear more from his brand in the future after getting hooked on the riffing he’s throwing down in the monolithic 2019 debut. Lifting the Curse doesn’t necessarily change anything about the rock n’ roll spectrum as we know it going into 2020, but for what it lacks in revolutionary framework it more than compensates us for in sheer adrenaline, creativity and an aesthetical provocativeness that has been missing from the genre’s most lauded releases for, in my opinion, far too long now.