Thomas Andrew Doyle – “Incineration Ceremony” (2017)

To say that I don’t own much in the way of classical music would be an understatement. The classical music in our house is limited to a couple of Three Tenors CDs and the track “Carmina Burana: Introduction” that appears on the soundtrack to the movie The Doors. I’m pretty sure that’s it. So in many ways, if not most, I’m not exactly the target customer for Thomas Andrew Doyle’s new album Incineration Ceremony, a modern-classical (♠) album if there every was one. But there is one very specific reason why a guy like me, with little to no experience in classical, was intrigued enough to buy this CD as soon as it came out, and that is the man himself, Thomas Andrew Doyle. You’re probably asking yourself, “OK, so who the hell is Thomas Andrew Doyle?” Well friends, he put out some pretty great albums in the late 80s/early 90s, a few of which just got re-released by Sub Pop. Because, you see, Thomas Andrew Doyle is probably best known to his music fans by his initials. T. A. D. As in Tad Doyle. As in TAD.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re trying to come to grips with the fact that the guy who gave us songs like “Wood Goblins,” “Sex God Missy,” and “Jack Pepsi,” the last of which was literally about getting drunk on Jack Daniels and Pepsi and driving out onto a frozen lake in a truck to do 180s before breaking through the ice and almost dying, a guy who’s most recent album Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was heavy as fuck, put out a CD of original classical compositions. Well, he did. Deal with it. Or better yet, go get yourself a copy of Incineration Ceremony, because it’s pretty damn good.

This is a lot to digest. I understand. By you need to listen to this music. It certainly carries a lot of the weight we’d expect from Doyle’s music, at times heavy and dense, at others sparse and more than a bit frightening. And he knows his stuff – he studied classical and jazz in college, and he plays almost all of the instruments you hear on Incineration Ceremony, with just a bit of percussion help from Peter Scartabello on two tracks.

I’ve been a fan of Doyle’s since the Salt Lick and God’s Balls days, and was fortunate to see him once live with his post-Tad project Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. I played the hell out of those records and 8-Way Santa, so while I’m hardly a superfan I’ve spent a fair amount of time listening to his music. And so far I’ve played this CD about 10 times because I just can’t get it out of my head. I keep going back to it again and again, trying to unravel its mysteries while mentally floating along the surface of the somewhat gloomy soundscape Doyle creates. I feel like there are answers there if I listen hard enough, hints to some kind of epiphany that disappear like wisps of smoke on a dark night just when you think you’ve finally found them. Incineration Ceremony isn’t “easy” music; instead it rewards the listener for his/her attention to detail and mood.

It’s difficult for me to try to identify a favorite song on Incineration Ceremony as the album is more a cohesive whole than a simple collection of individual songs, more like one complete composition with many parts. I guess I can pick a favorite section, and that would be the tail end of the album, with “Meditations in Null,” “Born Into Sorrow,” and the closer “Prognati Ignis Ignis” providing a sort of climax to what Doyle had been building towards with the first two parts. If there is a message to the listener, a unifying principle or concept, it is found on that last track which opens with the words of the brilliant Carl Sagan as he waxes philosophical about all of human history having taken place on Earth, the pale blue dot, which is nothing more than a speck of dust in the vastness of the cosmos. Sagan’s dialog launches “Prognati Ignis Ignis” into the atmosphere like a rocket, before it eventually settles into the sereneness of the cold dark void, setting the stage for Sagan to come back to us to bring it all to an end. Fantastic.

You can listen to Incineration Ceremony at the Yuggoth Records Bandcamp page HERE, as well as purchase a digital download for just 10 bucks. The CD itself appears to be limited to 100 copies, and it looks like they’re almost sold out, so if you want one you better get on it (because you can’t have mine!).

(♠) Yes, I realize this is an oxymoron. But it works.