The members of Royal Thunder jam amid kaleidoscopic colors, as a woman embarks on an abstract spiritual quest, in the group’s mysterious “Time Machine” video. Frontwoman Mlny Parsonz – whose impassioned yowls set the group’s dramatic and occasionally Zeppelin-esque riffs apart from other upstart psychedelic headbangers – underwent her own often-harrowing journey over recent years, one that informs Royal Thunder’s latest album, Crooked Doors.
Compared to the band’s breakthrough – the stunning, doomier 2012 record CVI – the new LP sounds freer and more like the product of acid rockers on a bad trip: guitars seethe between bluesy riffs and dark grooves, cymbals shimmy around jangly organ and, through it all, Parsonz hollers like a prisoner set free. The desperation in her tone fits the themes she’s singing about, from her experience in a Christian cult (“Floor”) to her breakup from husband (and Royal Thunder guitarist) Josh Weaver.
“I made some bad choices with someone, and having this person in my life was really toxic for me,” she says somewhat guardedly about “Time Machine.” “The song is me realizing, ‘Oh, my God, I just wasted all this time.’ You just have to take something from an experience like that and learn from it.”
Crooked Doors is a gut-wrenching listen at times, but Royal Thunder remain one of the most dynamic new underground heavy-rock bands, something they’re demonstrating by playing Crooked Doors’ tales of heartache and breakdowns on the road with an unlikely headliner, Wilco.
Parsonz recently spoke with Rolling Stone about escaping the cult and living through some of Crooked Doors’ most tumultuous moments.
What did you want to do differently on Crooked Doors from CVI?
I just didn’t want to be all mysterious, at all, with lyrics. I’m more grown-up now, and I’m like fuck all of this. Let’s just talk, you know what I mean?
A lot of the lyrics seem to detail your breakup with Josh.
I certainly didn’t sit down with Josh and say, “Hey, let’s write a breakup album.” Josh didn’t know what the lyrics were until our label, Relapse, asked for them. There were other things in my life that I’ve been going through, for two to three years, and they just started bubbling to the surface. I was breaking up with a lot of things in my life, and a lot of people.
How did Josh react when he finally read the lyrics?
There was a lot of confusion like, “What are you talking about? Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” It was hard for him to hear some of the stuff, but we sat down and talked. I was like, “Hey man, I can’t mask who I am and I can’t mask my creativity for the sake of everyone feeling good about what I’m saying. If you hate it bad enough, then kick me out of the band.” But he respects me as an artist, and he’s fine with the freedom that I need. We’ve always had painful songs. But you fucking play ’em. You lived through it. You’ve got to face it.