Numero Group’s Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles corrals 16 bands that dove headfirst, and while the poker was hot as hellfire, into the choppy waters of occult-focused and occasionally satanic ‘70s hard rock action. Its spoils uncover a pocket of previously uncelebrated motion; if not transcendent it does provide a return of dependable quality.
While humorous, the title of this 2LP is also appropriate, and the Rob Soden-designed cover is certainly amongst the most fitting sleeves I’ve ever glimpsed. Immediately my mind flooded with visions of 10th grade, the memory only strengthened by discovering the jacket was based on band-logo designs that decorated Soden’s high school Peechee folder.
One of my classmates, and to describe him as a metal fan would be a severe understatement, adorned the backs of his spiral-bound composition notebooks in a similar fashion. And I’d noticed other hard rock/metal lovers scrawling logos (I recall the most popular being AC/DC and Metallica) onto the covers of their pads and tablets, so this wasn’t necessarily a new development.
But the precision, consistency and sheer intensity of this one kid sitting across from me in sophomore study hall has always lingered in my consciousness. More than just fandom, his labyrinthine calligraphy was a declaration of extreme devotion; instead of focusing upon algebra or biology, he was ruminating upon and championing the finer points of Zeppelin, Sabbath, Priest, and Maiden.