The first seconds of Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus could've gone so wrong: Banging guitar wails and gospel choir harmonies blast off at high volume as Nick Cave howls, "Get ready for love!" It reads like overblown VH1-ready fare, but after the boredom of Nocturama and the loss of founding member Blixa Bargeld, something risky needed to happen, so Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have reinforced their vitality with a double LP whose risks mostly pay off. London's Community Gospel Choir sometimes only adds fluff to songs like the hippie-picnic nap of "Breathless" and the "Weeping Song" retread of "Spell," but the best moments of Blues and Orpheus benefit from the choir's seamless inclusion. "Hiding All Away" nails its boisterous climax with enough glorious, bluesy shouting to shame Jon Spencer for eternity, and the slinky pianos and meandering wails of "Carry Me" match the redemptive river in the song's lyrics. Sans choir, the grit of "Supernatural" sounds like a battle in a Robert Rodriguez western, while "Nature Boy" plays it a little too safe in mocking the E Street Band, though the result still rocks without sounding contrived. What's more, Cave contributes another stellar collection of poetry, and aside from a few archaic rhymes ("Orpheus" and "orifice"...come on), the lyrics are beautiful on their own, let alone with the Bad Seeds regaining their footing and turning the words into joyous noise.
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