Mark Lanegan has peppered the 33 years since his musical debut with equal amounts of wild abandon and measured wisdom. His earliest work with Screaming Trees was ferocity personified, but it was Lanegan’s sonorous baritone croon that anchored the sonic storm, and every project he’s headed or collaborated on over the past three decades—his solo output, Queens Of The Stone Age, Mad Season, his work with Isobel Campbell, Duke Garwood and Greg Dulli—has offered some variation on that theme. The beauty of it is that Lanegan has created his diverse catalog from a roiling creative core that, even at its most subdued, writhes, twitches and sparks like a downed power line.
For Gargoyle, his 10th album, Lanegan and his collective simultaneously ratchet up the intensity and return to the swirling psychedelic crunch of his earlier solo work. Elements of the synth-pop-tinted Blues Funeral and Phantom Radio remain in place, particularly on the burbling Roxy Music-esque “Blue Blue Sea” and “First Day Of Winter,” as well as the majestic and sprawling “Drunk On Destruction” and “Old Swan”; but for the majority of Gargoyle, Lanegan careens through the album’s 10 visceral tracks with bullet-train speed and hallucinogenic power. “Death’s Head Tattoo” and “Emperor” evoke Iggy Pop in his second-act prime, “Sister” slinks with Doors-like menace, and “Nocturne” burns with the quiet vehemence of Nick Cave, but as usual, filtered through Lanegan’s kaleidoscopic experience and exquisitely melancholic expression, to once again create a soundtrack that hits with the force of a well-timed punch and soothes like the ministrations of a doomed romantic poet.