“I make songs that shouldn’t be heard”. -Zebulon Whatley
In the Southern Gothic music genre, the band Sons Of Perdition are a high water mark of slow musical intensity. Evoking a desolate rural area where the choking weight of religion is standing between you and even worse devastation, their music is easily also described as “doom country” or “death country”. Even so, they’re sort of the Pink Floyd of the southern gothic genre and to my ears, at times the most musically interesting, even if the vocals for some can a bit of an acquired taste .
I debated how to approach featuring this band and decided to simply concentrate on a single album. Psalms For The Spiritually Dead is the second album in their Dissolution trilogy. Much like the brilliant The Kingdom Is On Fire before it, Psalms is a somber, dark dream of melancholy. “Initially, I had this idea for starting a band and over the course of three albums turning it from a very, very strict religious band and completely inverting the allegory and showing the exact opposite, which should be a very evil band and see if anybody noticed”. -Zebulon Whatley
Although the line up currently consists of Zebulon Whatley (vocals, guitar and banjo), Lacy Rose (harmonium and piano), Simon Broke (double bass) and Alex Hardie (drums), Sons Of Perdition is definitely Zebulon Whatley’s show. For 10 years it was basically just him.
As to the origin of the band name: “Well, it’s a biblical phrase describing those few who are beyond salvation. They’re irredeemable. According to the Bible, even Jesus is powerless to save them, which is a hell of an accomplishment. I thought it was a perfectly morose name for gospel band, which was the original direction for the band.”
“I grew up in a very rural area of East Texas, about twenty minutes outside the town of Elkhart (population 1,076). It absolutely influenced my songwriting. The religious zealotry, extreme Christian logic, spiritual decay, abject poverty… these were all things that I could witness by looking out of my front door. They all stuck with me, too.”
“When I was growing up, the AM radio stations in East Texas played a lot of hellfire-and-brimstone sermons. Hell, they probably still do. When I started working on The Kingdom is on Fire, I wanted the songs to fade in and out between radio static and these horrid sermons and church hymns (including an a cappella version of “All He Wants (Is My Blood)” that I recorded). I eventually talked myself out of the idea because I didn’t want the album to be too pretentious, but I kept bits of the concept. Part of the original sermon that I recorded for the overall album later found its way onto “Psalm 138”. I had recently discovered Those Poor Bastards, so I gave Lonesome Wyatt carte blanche to record a hellish sermon for the song. What’s on there is all him, so I can’t take credit for it. I think he did a bang-up job.”
“Psalm of Slumber” is populated by the ghosts of Jonestown. The samples are all pulled from the death tape of the Jonestown Massacre, where Reverend Jim Jones convinced (or coerced) over nine hundred members of his Peoples Temple to commit suicide. The incident (and to a lesser extent, the song) serves as a warning about blindly following a leader, whether religious or political. I spent hours scrubbing out the sounds of children screaming and dying because I didn’t want to be exploitative. Besides, the song is more about the shepherd than the flock.”
You can check out Psalms For The Spiritually Dead over at Bandcamp.
Also, a vastly more comprehensive post on the band can be found over at Swedish Embassy Of Gothic Country, THE ultimate internet site for the gothic country genre.