Between swarthy keys and fat synth melodies, the title track in BD Gottfried’s entrancing Onion Doves wraps its tight hook around us and refuses to let go – perhaps the perfect demonstration of what its creator is so adept at both in and outside of the studio. In songs like this one and the tenacious blood-pumper “Earth and Air,” Gottfried’s vocal skews synthesized melancholy with a vicious intensity that presents us with both heavy emotion and a strangely robotic control of the rhythm. The contrast spills into “Three Stories High” and “Flowers of Disarray” without skipping a beat, and somewhere across thirteen songs, we find the soul of an artist more cohesive than it would ever be fractured.
The synths are jarring in “Neuropsychopharmacology Jello” and even the softer “Appetite for Change,” but the stringy basslines we find across Onion Doves are never drowned out by a muddy melodicism. The grimy “Hurt” and balladic “9th Line Beauty” have as much elegance to behold as the more volatile “Dance of the Serpent Queen” does, and never does it sound like BD Gottfried is having to cut some of the elaborate excesses in his sound for the sake of sounding ready for the radio in any capacity.
Juxtaposition plays a mighty role in “Romancers of the Dark” and “Truth, Such a Rarity,” although I think it’s important to understand that Gottfried is never splitting aesthetical foundations for any reason other than establishing a progressive fluidity in the tracklist. Simply put, I don’t get the impression he’s fronting a complex compositional style in Onion Doves just to sound slicker than his competition does – he’s too invested in the lyrics of “Bathing With the Sinners” and the stunner “Earth and Air” for this to be a plea for widespread acceptance from critics and fans.
Whether it be the urgency of “Comic Book Messiah” or the fanatically sensuous approach to synth harmonies in “Dance of the Serpent Queen,” there’s something for almost every retro alternative rocker’s taste in Onion Doves, and I can see why BD Gottfried is getting the praise he is for his performance here. He isn’t trying to be old-fashioned with his artistry; it’s coming out that way because of his own unique affinity for classical surrealism and outsider melodies of the ghostliest variety. Onion Doves is a haunting LP that demands the full attention of its audience, and I highly recommend audiences give it an engaging listen before the year concludes.