Seemingly, Blitzen Trapper names their albums after what they believe will be the most beloved track on each album, although this isn’t meant to imply that their other material isn’t worthwhile. Wild Mountain Nation had plenty to recommend it, but nothing beat the scrappy alt-country of the title track. Follow-up Furr was equally enjoyably, but the album’s finest moment came when the band toned down the rowdiness and let singer Eric Earley deliver “Furr,” a beautiful and effortless folk tune bound to be a minor classic. It’s an unusually self-aware trend for a band that appears to be otherwise unconcerned with what’s popular or how they will be considered. Generally, Blitzen Trapper does what Blitzen Trapper does, consequences be damned.
Yet Blitzen Trapper appears to have done the same thing, title-wise, on their latest, Destroyer of the Void. The title track, which, incidentally is the opening track, is certainly the most unique of the band’s discography. “Destroyer of the Void” is a wild, psych-rock head trip, far more indebted to Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd than the Allman Brothers. It’s not entirely successful, a little too susceptible to distracting tangents, but it does suggest to the listener that Blitzen Trapper is as adventurous as ever.
“Destroyer of the Void” is a bit of a red herring though. Putting that song up front and naming the album after it implies that the rest of Destroyer of the Void will be similar, or at least in a similar spirit. Yet the remainder of the album works in the same mold as previous Blitzen Trapper releases: loopy folk tunes, rootsy pop, and the occasional murder ballad.
It would be understandable to feel misled by Destroyer of the Void’s opener, but the truth of the matter is that Blitzen Trapper is really good at what they do. If they want to forego any gigantic leaps in favor of gradual steps towards something new, then more power to them, so long as they keep the quality of their familiar work up to snuff. By and large, Blitzen Trapper does a passable job at that last part. Even if there are few far and away absolute highlights on Destroyer of the Void, there’s nothing terrible here. There are a few songs that hark back to Village Green-era Kinks (“Laughing Lover,” “Dragon’s Song,” “Lover Leave Me Drowning”), with their winding harmonies and ornamental arrangements. “Below the Hurricane” and “Heaven and Earth” continues Blitzen Trapper’s tradition of eerie, haunted balladry with the impressive results.
But, while there are no total duds on this album, there are certainly moments that feel undercooked. “Love and Hate” is based on around the sort of crunchy riffery these guys could pull off in their sleep, and that may have been exactly what happened because the resulting song is underwhelming. “The Man Who Would Speak True,” the aforementioned murder ballad, has a spooky atmosphere and an appropriately ghostly vocal to match, but it’s hard not to notice that the song is incredibly thematically reminiscent of Furr’s “Black River Killer”. Closer “Sadie” is catchy, competent piano-pop; not bad, but nothing to get terribly excited about.
Blitzen Trapper don’t appear to be pushing themselves too hard on Destroyer of the Void, and that’s kind of disappointing, but again, Blitzen Trapper have never been known to be vigilant self-editors. Their debut album was memorably compared to Pavement’s freewheeling Wowee Zowee, for god’s sake. There’s bound to be dip in great ideas at some point if you’re simply following every idea through to completion. Destroyer of the Void is Blitzen Trapper functioning at half power, and that’s pretty impressive in its own right.