Review Summary: Death, decay, misery and insanity documented into an exhausting, 66-minute experience….
Doom metal supergroup With the Dead are back with a sophomore effort, sarcastically called Love from With the Dead
. I actually anticipated this album, because there’s something about their debut that makes me return every once in a while to it. It is far from flawless, but it has charisma and its sheer power is infectious. Front man Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral) mentioned he wants to make this band the heaviest possible and it wasn’t a joke. Now, with a second LP out, the quartet wanted to take things to the next level. Since Mark Greenberg (ex-Electric Wizard, Ramesses) is out of the picture, the band brought Alex Thomas (Bolt Thrower) and Leo Smee (ex-Cathedral) to complete the line-up.
The results of two inspired sessions held one year apart in January 2016 & 2017 are 66 minutes of incredibly murky, loud riffage. There is nothing hopeful here, only death, decay, misery and insanity. The detached music creates a nihilistic vibe and the pounding sonic structures are akin to a boot pressing harder with each minute on your head. Dorrian’s vocals sort of animate the journey, yet even he sounds like he’s halfway gone or sometimes a cyborg. Long story short, the guys are really compelling when it comes to the atmosphere they want to create. Whether they wish to further express this through the overall production as well, I am not sure. Compared to the debut, the guitar and bass are downtuned to the point where they are indistinguishable one from the other. Yes, they are more powerful and tractor heavy this way, still the result is a bit flat. There are few moments on Love from With the Dead
that can be called even remotely melodic. ‘Egyptian Tomb’ and ‘Reincarnation of Yesterday’ get closest as Tim Bagshaw (ex-Electric Wizard) plays some sparse guitar lines over a wall of distortion. There are subtle changes here and there, however, they are not very notable amid the chaos, because you’re bombarded with a sustained level of hellish riffs. ‘Anemia’ does shares some awe-inspiring guitar leads though, and a rare, subdued segment that builds tension for another round of aggro release.
Meanwhile, for an even more extreme pleasure, ‘Cocaine Phantoms’, ‘Watching the Ward Go By’ & monster closer ‘CV1’ are a doom purist’s dream. Featuring trudging riffs bonanza, these songs are guaranteed to destroy any trace of positivism you might have left at this point. The huge drums are the biggest highlight on the record as they shape the guitar/bass madness. Dorrian’s dramatic vocals are doing their best to capture an authentic feel and his experience within the genre does show. He’s one of the two reasons I return to listening to them. The man knows what he’s doing and sounds really cool while at it. ‘Watching the Ward Go By’ seems like a soundtrack to a walk in Silent Hill. The steady kick/tom beats and light string touches topped by spoken words are somber and lead to some of the most dismal riffs I have ever heard. Then, to top things off, enter ‘CV1’, a daunting end to this dreary journey. The 17-minute onslaught drags you deeper into gloom and during the last 5 minutes oscillators create a noisy pattern that joins the rest of the instruments into an apocalyptic coda. The powerful experience With the Dead create is the second reason I come back to them. Needless to say, this isn’t an album for a casual listener of this type of music.
In the end, Love from With the Dead
is in some ways a step backwards from the self-titled LP. The production is not well-rounded and the overwhelming length does not help the rather linear structures. Keeping this record at 45 minutes would’ve been the first step in making it a better follow-up. Indeed, the overall vibe does feel genuine, yet they did it better through a leaner production. Even so, again I found myself listening to this more than I thought I would. The extreme nature, muddy tones as well as Lee’s charismatic persona have that something which lures me into this bleak universe. It’s a weird sensation, but I enjoy (guilty pleasure) this niche they carve for themselves. Electric Wizard are groovier, still, these days they seem like a little whiny baby next to With the Dead. If they keep this raw direction and go slower, soon they’ll drop a Sunn O))) album. I hope they will diversify their output though, because this way the novelty will wear off and the monotony threatens to get stale (for some I am sure it was there from the start).