Ever heard of Doom Folk?
I hadn’t until I was fortunate enough to run into Bishop LaVey—AKA Kane Sweeney—at his show with Keep Flying at Jim’s Basement in Burlington, Vermont! Local to the Vermont scene, he is a singer-songwriter who produces music unlike anything I had heard before.
“Bishop LaVey” was originally meant to be just one darker, more aggressive concept album in Kane’s singer-songwriter career, but his new persona took off to have a life of its own. His discography under Bishop has grown to include releases like Light (February 2019, album), Paint Me the Widow (2017 EP), and singles such as “As Much as You Control” and “Trouble for Nothing.”
Now, Bishop LaVey is back with a new release: I Am the Atom, an album due to be released tomorrow, December 7, 2019—or, as Kane mentioned at Jim’s Basement, Pearl Harbor Day.
“I am the Atom” is the title track of the release, as well as the first song of the album. The stage is set for the track’s gritty vocals by light acoustic guitar strumming and a spoken word piece. “I am the Atom” brings a lot of Bishop’s strengths into play: his vocals are emphasized and echo among the steady guitar stream, allowing us to really get into the rhythm he creates and molds throughout the track.
The guitar picking at the beginning of “Romulus” brings a flighty feel to the song before it quickly deepens and slows through plodding, resonating notes as the vocals enter. The heaviness of the instrumentals brings extra emphasis and focus to the lyrics and the dynamic storyline within them: “Well, I was born up on the mountain / And they’ll drown me in the lake / Well, I breathe in Armageddon / And they’ll die for my mistakes / If my body is a temple / Well, then it’s seen some better days / So you can throw me from this hilltop / I see no sacrifice in vain / Now I am coming home / You’ve seen how I / I stand alone….” The character that Bishop takes on is one that we get to know well through the lyrics’ twists and turns, and it is a sonic pleasure to do so—In fact, “Romulus” is one of my favorite songs of the album.
The lightness of the introduction to “Ballad of John Peyton” juxtaposes nicely with the darkness of the previous tracks’ instrumentals. Much like the darkness emphasized the light of Bishop’s vocals in the previous track, the light of “Ballad of John Peyton” really shows off the grit in Bishop LaVey’s voice. Although it isn’t my favorite of the album—its slower pace not only shows the strengths in Bishop’s musicality, but also hints at some of the not-so-strong parts, such as the occasional unintentional shakiness of his longer-held notes—it does provide a bit of relief from the completely saturated, strong-willed tracks surrounding it. “Ballad of John Peyton” is a well-placed track in terms of the album, and I do believe it adds strength to the whole in its unique approach.
The picking pattern and bassline that launch “The Myth Has Broken” echo the phrasing of the vocals in a way that makes it another one of my favorite songs of this album. Tolling like a bell, Bishop’s vocals are rhythmically mesmerizing, especially when the track picks up around the one and a half minute mark. The sweeping synthesizer adds a lot to the fullness of the track when combined with the other instrumentals, but Bishop also chooses the perfect points to pull back in again, making “The Myth Has Broken” a dynamic, interesting track to listen to no matter how many times you put it on repeat.
“Weaker Man” employs softness in its guitar line to set off Bishop’s sandy tones. This is one of those tracks where the space between notes matters as much as what is there. Every moment feels intentional and well-practiced. The gentle, constant instrumentals allow for the focus to really be on the well-written lyrics and their delivery as the song builds: “Going to a place I’ve never been before / All you give me is a glimpse, I need something more / The crows, they laugh at me through my bedroom wall / All I want is to clip their wings and watch them fall / Burning through my cash and booze and cigarettes / I probably got ten years in me and that’s at best / You keep me grounded someplace I can stand / Cut me off at the knees and you’ll see a weaker man.”
The final track of I Am the Atom is “The Family Curse.” Starting slow, but still measured and dynamic, “The Family Curse” focuses again on the fantastic lyrical storytelling that I have come to expect from Bishop. Even when the track picks up with the unpredictable introduction of electric guitar and percussion, it still retains the elements that make Bishop LaVey’s music so interesting to listen to. In fact, the addition of fuller instrumentals only highlights the strengths of his storytelling and musical ability, and I would love to see things mixed up more like this in the future. “The Family Curse’s” melancholy vocals and dynamically yearning instrumentals echo the themes found throughout the album, wrapping things up in a way that feels fittingly final.
If you’re interested in hearing some Doom Folk for yourself, check out Bishop’s album when it goes live tomorrow, or catch him at one of the upcoming shows of his Atomic Winter Tour:
Learn more about Bishop LaVey: