Enormous melodies dressed as metallic daggers confront us with formidable strength in “The Earth is B flat.” The overdrive gets turned down while the tempo gets twisted in “This song won’t get played on the radio.” Darren Michael Boyd gets his funk on in “Was it something I said?” with just as much passion as he showcases in the prog-metal throwdown “Trails & Entrails.” “Music in the Murder House” stalks its prey in the shadows only to pounce on us with even more of a violent push than that of “Little Toad.” If “Notational Witchery” doesn’t envelop you in its ethereal guitar theatrics, “Circle of Sixes” almost definitely will. This is Lifting the Curse, the all-new album from instrumentalist Darren Michael Boyd, and it’s been winning the favor of critics throughout the underground since its initial release in 2019 – for good reason, I should point out. Lifting the Curse is a guitar-lover’s dream incarnate, multifaceted with enormous harmonies and beats that could crater the ground beneath your stereo even at moderate volumes, and it’s an LP I would recommend to big metal and rock fans as much as I would occasional distortion connoisseurs.

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As much as the guitars are the undisputable star of Lifting the Curse, there are more than a couple of instances in which the grooves in the album outshine even the most exuberant of solos. Other than the title track, which plods along like a doom metal march into the darkness of night, there isn’t a song here that doesn’t have a certain amount of swing to it (including the ballad-style “Notational Witchery”). Boyd proves he can thrash like it’s 1986 in “Circle of Sixes,” get down and funk with the best of ‘em in “Was it something I said?” and slice up a modern sludge riff like nobody’s business in “Music in the Murder House,” all the while bringing unique swagger to every melody he stamps his name on. Lifting the Curse doesn’t ask a whole lot out of its listeners in exchange for a treasure chest full of tonality, and if you’re expecting to hear the same kind of magic in a mainstream rock effort this February, I wouldn’t hold my breath for too long.

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Those who didn’t already hear the juggernaut that is Darren Michael Boyd’s first solo studio album in 2019 need to make a point to do so in 2020, because the critical consensus is in – it’s one of the more well-rounded instrumental discs of its kind out everywhere independent music is sold and streamed at the moment. Boyd doesn’t try to be anything other than an easygoing rock guitarist in this LP, and by sticking to a basic script, he cuts out all of the standardized nonsense that audiences often have to dig through in a lyric-less outing like this one. Lifting the Curse is a record that requires more than one listen to completely appreciate, but once it’s revealed it’s many colors to you, I think you’ll agree when I say it’s a more than worthwhile experience for any audiophile.

Sebastian Cole