The scruff daddies are at it again. Today, Chris Aitkens and myself (Justin Bruce) are taking a stab at the Australian experimental-metal duo, DEAD. I’m sure I’ve heard some cliché about great work coming from conflict, but there’s not much dispute this time around; Raving Drooling, the band’s latest release, is successfully floating both of our boats.
Castlemaine, Australia’s duo DEAD add to the overall weirdness of 2020 with their latest album Raving Drooling, released through WeEmptyRooms, an independent record label run by band members Jace and Jem. Like their label name suggests, this is not for the close-minded music fans who only want meat-and-potatoes rock n’ roll; this is for the few adventurous listeners who are not afraid to try new exotic tastes.
I didn’t really know what to expect, but judging by Jace’s colourfully odd cover art, I knew I was in for something otherworldly. Needless to say, I was absolutely blown away. The album pulls you from the beginning with its high-energy sludgy bangers, then once you’re hooked in, it introduces post-metal experimentation, becoming more soothing and transcendental in the final three tracks.
Opening track “Remorse” kicks off with Jem’s thunderous drumming on the toms, followed by Jace’s bong-rattling bass and layers of fuzzy guitars. The choral combination of Jace and Jam’s vocals are both invigorating and eerie, sounding a lot like Kylesa, especially on “Digging Holes.” Their voices become more aggressive and demonic on the chaotic yet short punk number “Nunchukka Superfly,” which features a ripping guitar solo from Creston Spiers of the Athens, GA noise rockers Harvey Milk. “Nones” sees the integration of synths, courtesy of Portland-based artist Veronica Avola, who previously collaborated in 2017 on Unpopularity Contest. Then comes the industrial noise on “Repeating A Bad Decision,” provided by Hirofumi Uchino of Japanese noise artists Defektro, along with foreboding whispers and an angelic chorus. But it all comes together in the near-14-minute closer, “Follow The Breathing,” which features Jem hammering on a 44-gallon drum, Saxophone (from Jenny Diversion), bird noises (from Guro Moe), and synths (from Joe Preston, occasional Sunn O))) collaborator) that sound like they would fit perfectly in a slow-burning horror film. Jace and Jem get their moment in the spotlight when all goes silent and they take turns playing around with their instruments, slowly winding down a spiral of madness.
I am truly in awe of what I just listened to, and I look forward to diving deep into the rest of DEAD’s catalogue.
Chris is right, this album fuckin’ rips.
Between the pummelling instrumental and the Blood Mountain-era Mastodon style vocals on the opening tune “Remorse,” DEAD hooked me right off the hop. The band’s sludgy stylings kept my head nodding through songs like “Nones” and, my favourite tune on this thing, “Repeating a Bad Decision.” Both these songs see DEAD lay heavy into the low end, with a strong Melvins influence showing in the former and hints of noise rock bands like KEN mode cropping up through the latter. I absolutely love the grit on “Repeating a Bad Decision,” especially as it bleeds into the closing track “Follow the Breathing.” This behemoth track truly needs to be listened to in its entirety. The song’s slow build never lost my interest, even during its most sparse passages. This dynamic closer bounces between sounding thin and vulnerable and sounding absolutely massive without missing a beat.
I didn’t hate anything on Raving Drooling, but there were some tunes that I feel failed to live up to the rest of what DEAD included. The biggest dud, I felt, was the song “Digging Holes.” My kitty from another city (you try and come up with a funnier way to describe him) already mentioned an eerie, Kylesa vibe on the album’s second track, but I cannot get behind this one. I’ll give the band credit for trying to do something different with the vocals on “Digging Holes,” but I found Jace and Jem’s extra clean singing on this song to lack the character that drew me in in the first place.
It’s safe to say that DEAD have garnered two new fans. Raving Drooling is a great listen if you’re into anything on the sludgy and more experimental side of things. Now, I’m going to follow Chris’ lead and do some digging into the band’s previous releases.
Written by Chris Aitkens and Justin Bruce
*edited by Danielle Kenedy