Bloody Panda

First impressions are very important, never having a second chance to make them and all, as the saying goes. After hearing some hype about Bloody Panda, my immediate reaction was of disdain, seeing the band members engaged in the extremely tacky act of sound checking their gear in the intimate confines of the Mill Creek Tavern in Philadelphia before getting into stage costume, slipping on their executioner’s masks in plain view of the gathered crowd. Not exactly showmanship 101. Skeptical at that point, I gave their performance a chance and came away dissatisfied, a feeling their debut album, Pheremone or their half of a split with Kayo Dot did little to change. Being one of those bands that would normally fit into my sweet spot with their avant-garde take on the doom metal genre, I must say I was eager to give them a second chance when their sophomore effort landed in my grubby hands.

Fitting somewhat logically into what has surprisingly become a fairly high-profile New York doom scene with now defunct underground phenomenon Khanate and black metal stoners Unearthly Trance; Bloody Panda similarly put an emphasis on the harrowing drone, pacing the dismal catacombs lit only by the oncoming trains. Osaka based frontwoman Yoshiko Ohara even recalls a certain New Yorker, Karyn Crisis in her range of beautiful to ugly voices and despite my previous reservations, I confirm is nowhere near as annoying as the unfair, and mostly unfounded, Yoko Ono comparisons would suggest. That said it would be equally disingenuous to deny that her vocalizations are the centerpiece here as while the remaining band members do much to create the atmosphere, it is an atmosphere created for the purpose of showcasing her experimental stylings.

Opener “Gold” features some of the best and worst the group has to offer, progressing through about seven minutes of grueling and rather directionless atmosphere building, that seems to randomly stop and restart for no apparent reason, before finally bursting into quite a nice guitar and vocal hook to close out, a rather cathartic effect though it doesn’t make the first half of the song any more enjoyable or even listenable. This pattern repeats itself through-out the album, the band can create memorable riffs and intriguing atmosphere, they did on their first record and do it better here, but these moments are few and far between extended expanses of nothing much, mindless droning and jamming which wears at the listener’s patience and resolve. Nowhere is that more obvious than on 21 minute centerpiece “Misere” a pittance of interesting moments struggling against a morass of meaninglessness. I’ll take my own advice and choose not to labor the point further, Bloody Panda sounds like the weird band playing in the weird club our hero wanders through in some David Lynch type movie, so if that is what they are going for, great. Effective for spare moments, but frustrating overall even for this fairly open-minded listener in their inability to take the good things they have going for them and put it together in a truly enrapturing way.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by John Gnesin
August 31st, 2009


  1. Commented by: timshel

    Isn’t it frustrating when a band has the raw materials to make fascinating music, but can’t figure out how to put it all together? I thought the band had some promise when I heard them on the Kayo Dot split, but that promise hasn’t been realized yet…

  2. Commented by: Andrew

    How is sound checking your gear tacky?? Isn’t that what just about every single band that isn’t big enough to have a road crew have to do?

  3. Commented by: Chevalier Mal Fet

    Sound-checking isn’t tacky. Being normal dudes soundchecking and then pulling on your executioner’s masks and acting all spooky and forboding is tacky or funny in a Spinal Tap-ish way which I’m sure they did not intend, they could have at least wandered backstage or to the men’s room and then come back. Like I said, showmanship 101, just ask yourself WWGWARD?

  4. Commented by: globox

    I really like this album and I thought they were pretty awesome when I saw them a few weeks ago w/ Ocean. The thing about putting on the masks after soundcheck is a nonissue to me. Seriously, three dudes wearing t shirts and hoods is not scary regardless of where they put their masks on. No matter how they do it, it’s always going to be cartoonish.

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