Review Summary: ATDI + BvS + NK + F = MD. Ya it's kinda like that.
I wrote a review for La Cosa Nostra
's demos that sort of waxed poetic on the waves of bands that have been trying to carry on the legacy of At the Drive-In
. If stopping that monologue at Million Dead, I'd come to the conclusion that when Million Dead broke up last year or so, that they were just another band that was lost in the long shadow of Cedric, Omar, Jim, Paul, and Tony. In reality they are band that has endowed the world of post-hardcore with some wonderful tracks and a pretty solid album in their debut LP A Song to Ruin
Million Dead sounds like everybody and nobody at once. The At the Drive-In influence is heavier than my sedentary grandmother. It sits awkwardly if you're familiar with ATDI's music, however that in many ways is a great thing. It means Million Dead rocks out pretty hard and their energy feels youthful and fun. They also sound like Bear vs. Shark
in that they're a little more stripped down and raw in their approach, favoring more analog sounds to the slightly overproduced sound of Relationship of Command
. Other bands that seem to contribute to Million Dead's sound are No Knife
, whose fun, original riffs seem to be found in every corner of every song on this album and Frodus
, considering the tracks "Song to Ruin" and "Relentless" are the baby brothers of Frodus' "Out-Circuit the Ending," hopelessly aping their older brother's mature slowness and pensive tone. However as obvious as all of these influences may seem, Million Dead feels new and original. This is in part because of their tremendous energy, which could even reinvent Enya as punk motherfuc
ker. Vocalist Frank Turner's vocals feel like an off-the-wall Jim Ward but with an untouchable element that makes it all his own. The trebly drums are one of a kind. The guitar and bass interplay in beautiful ways, producing grooves that have punk energy with a slightly tighter feel than that of most other similar bands. So, while Million Dead's influences are obvious in premise, when they're actually executing at 100% it's easy to forget ATDI et al and just enjoy the idiosyncratic flow of Song to Ruin
These factors are only reinforced by the sweet song writing. A lot of credit goes to Turner, who may be the most charismatic lead man I've heard recently, up with the likes of Daryl Palumbo. No matter what the rest of the music is doing, Turner is emoting and wailing above the mix. His voice has a real yearning quality to it that greatly propels the urgency of the tracks. Sometimes he falls back into generic post-hardcore screaming, but usually his shout is wonderfully melodic and versatile while his singing voice is nicely abrasive and piercing. The other musicians aren't back either. They aren't as charismatic as the vocals and aren't as technical as some other musicians in similar bands, but these guys have a wonderful, tight interplay. As mentioned earlier a lot of the great grooves come from the interaction of the guitar and bass. The drums will often just resort to fun punk double-time drumming to keep up the pace, so the guitar has to syncopate and lock-in with the bass producing sweet counterrhythms from an unconventional instrument to be using such techniques. In general, I'm just a big fan of the songwriting. Tracks 2-4 and 6-7 are gems. The others are good too but the album hinges off the awesome moments that are littered throughout those songs.
So Million Dead can be a splash too obvious sometimes but more than make up for that with their energy, sweet lead vocals, and solid songwriting. If you're a fan of punk music at all just listen to the first 22 seconds of "Smiling at Strangers on Trains" and try not to enjoy it. That portion could sell this album alone. Oh ya the rest of that song slays to. Get on it.
Recommended Tracks: Smiling at Strangers on Trains*, I Am the Party*, Charlie and the Propaganda Machine, I Am the Party, MacGyver
* = Almost too good