As far as I’m concerned, combinations of comedy and heavy music produce far more misses than hits. Though I have no issue with the idea on a purely conceptual basis, many bands that attempt such a combination become so invested in working humorous aspects into their music that the musical content itself becomes little more than an afterthought. At first glance, Cybernetic Witch Cult’s Spaceous Cretaceous appears destined for such a dismissal—with those album and band names slapped on what can only be described as a third grader’s artistic rendition of Jurassic Park on LSD, it doesn’t exactly distinguish itself as a release to be taken seriously. Doubt the power of the Cult at your own peril, however, because Spaceous Cretaceous is a surprisingly immersive, clever, and overall successful album that’s funny without ever wearing out its welcome.
In essence, the record succeeds because it’s simply well-written and well-performed stoner rock. Rather than the humorous elements taking center stage, what sticks out the most is that these guys know their way around a hook and melody and can write some great riffs. Spaceous Cretaceous is ultimately successful due to the fact that the aforementioned humor has a solid instrumental base on which to rest. Opening track “Velocirapture” is funny, sure, but its catchy opening riff had me hook, line, and sinker before the vocals even kicked in. For the most part, the album just sounds good—the guitars are crisp, the bass is jammin’, and the vocals are energetic and memorable. My only real gripe about the album’s production is the presence of a vocal effect on the intro verse of about half of the songs. It could be a unique and interesting touch if utilized more sparingly, but becomes grating due to overuse.
Despite its successes, there’s nothing particularly fancy about Spaceous Cretaceous; it rarely deviates from a standard psychedelic stoner rock formula, save for the sinister, doom-inspired “Hunted on Hoth” and slightly more introspective closer “See Her at the End of Time.” This isn’t a particularly glaring issue, though, as even the more formulaic songs are good enough to distinguish themselves from each other. “Enchantress,” for example, is the one of the album’s best songs despite being relatively straightforward in its composition; instead, it gets by based largely on a killer hook and maddeningly catchy main riff. Most of the record is comprised in similar fashion, although I’d call that a strength rather than a weakness due to the quality of each song. In all honesty, the complete lack of pretension is pretty refreshing; in a day and age in which metal seems to be getting more and more complex and ostentatious, it’s nice to hear a bunch of guys jam out, lay down some sweet riffs, and recount a scene from Star Wars. Though comedy-based music is admittedly not my forte, Spaceous Cretaceous is pretty damn funny, too. The aforementioned “Velocirapture” samples some sci-fi quotes and soundbytes to present a story of a platoon being overpowered by an army of dinosaurs, while highlight “Nuclear Sunset” describes the humanity’s night before the impending nuclear holocaust. “High Wizard” is probably the album’s weirdest song (which is saying a lot), opening with the proud proclamation of “I am high!” before reinforcing that statement over the course of a six minute story about an evil space wizard.
Though I originally intended to sum Spaceous Cretaceous up as a “fun listen” or a “good time,” I think that’s selling Cybernetic Witch Cult a little bit short. There’s more here than you’ll generally find with your average “fun” band; the musicianship is tighter, the lyrics are more clever, and the songwriting as a whole has a leg up on that of their peers. Rather than any contemporary stoner rock act, though, the album most reminds me of Gloryhammer’s Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards, one of 2015’s best releases. Much like Spaceous Cretaceous, it’s an album chock-full of bizarre lyricism and over-the-top concepts, but its songwriting and instrumentation are so damn fantastic that it would’ve been a great release regardless of its lyrical subject matter. The albums succeed in precisely the same way; they’re both funny, but it’s the actual music that makes them such a joy to listen to. As a result, Spaceous Cretaceous distinguishes itself as an ultimately satisfying stoner rock release and a rare example of comedic heavy music done right.
Check out the video for “Nuclear Sunset” below.