The Del-Vipers shot out like a rocket with their debut LP Terror of the Del-Vipers, then carried that momentum onto the more musically diverse EP Cannibal Safari. So you might be a little a little startled by how unstartling this album starts: with with friendly, sweet Shadows-ey guitar. On their second LP, The Del-Vipers have crafted a much more global, expansive sound that does more than just rip... but also still rips.
Their Cannibal Safari EP may have branched out into tiki territory, but Los Del-Vipers eschews kitsch for real-world instrumental globe-trotting. This wasn't a surprise to me because I've had the insider insight of swapping texts with their guitarist Ross about various records we'd picked up, often focusing on vintage guitar instrumentals beyond the USA: the likes of Los Belkings, Omar Khorshid, eleki, Luis Bacalov, etc. While any Del-Vipers record is a treat, it's been particularly exciting to me seeing this sounds resurface on this record.
But the key thing here is that this is a Del-Vipers record, not Del-Vipers musicians costuming as other bands. In his recent Pi Records interview Ross admits that all of the members come from punk/hardcore backgrounds. Playing fast and viciously is baked into their nature as musicians. So I think what results is raw energy, power and weight, but also a little more breathing room to appreciate the instrumental work, and I think that works out wonderfully. What he also reveals in this interview is that this was mostly a covid project, swapping parts and overdubs rather than working it out at once as a group as their previous records had been, and I think this reveals itself most when they expand beyond what 3 members could play, with some tracks featuring rhythm guitar or keyboards.
As mentioned, it starts off with "Kohala Bay", which is in Hawaii but I think I hear a South American instro (Los Belking's, Los Jaguar's) influence here. I love whatever the subtle rhythmic pulse is in the background, and while this resembles Shadows both in tone and songwriting, it actually has quite a stomp to it.
"Nankai no Ikari" and "Jorōgumo" both display some pretty explicit eleki influence, though with a little extra bite, reminiscent of the recent Coffin Daggers release.
"The Temptress of Waikiki" was an immediate standout to me, starting with a lush surfy sound with nice bongo percussion, but getting dangerous with a wobbly, unstable chorus. This is the sort of stuff that wouldn't necessarily come through at their previous tempo, and it's super fun and freaky.
"The Egypt Mirra" is likely a nod to Omar Khorshid, with synths non-drumset percussion, but it's very much their own song too, with some nasty surf moaning adding a layer of darkness to the moaning melody.
"Blood Island" will likely either be a skipped track or a favorite with little in-between opinions, embracing dissonanant harmonies between muted guitar and low-battery synths. It's weird and dizzying and I think it's pretty fun.
The closer "El Asesino de Rojo" shows clear Spaghetti Western influence, stripping way down to focus on a forlorn melody. Subtle bass booms from an unidentified instrument give it a stormy feeling.
And of course, it's a surf record, and that's what mainly happening on "Ayahuasca", "Raiders Reef" and "Mystic Skull", which swing, wail, crash and stomp beautifully. They're probably closer to straight surf than the wild Astro-punk demonstrated on their first record and if this record weren't so full of other things to talk about, I'd spend a lot more time talking about them.
All in all, this is a record that's as creative as it is exhilarating. While these new directions do mean that they've slowed down a tad in a literal sense, that spark that electrified the band's past recordings is absolutely still as strong as ever -- just rerouted.
Vinyl (the band's first!) will be on its way via Otitis Media and CDs will be stocked by Double Crown.