With The Dead

With The Dead

Written by: AP on 19/06/2016 21:39:23

Despite existing less than two years, With the Dead certainly have their credentials in order. The band is built around vocalist Lee Dorrian — a man most fans of stoner doom are in thrall of for his work with the legendary Cathedral, whose 1991 record “Forest of Equilibrium” is still regarded as one of the quintessential releases in the genre — and also comprises Dorrian’s bassist from 1994 to 2011, Leo Smee, as well former Electric Wizard members Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening on guitar and drums, respectively. The British quartet features some potent firepower thus, and given the repertoire of the personnel, one could be forgiven for imagining With the Dead’s style a 50/50 ratio of Cathedral and ‘Wizard. In truth however, the ‘apocalyptic, skull-crushing doom metal’ of this eponymous debut will sound more familiar to fans of the latter, with only Dorrian’s megaphonic, reverberating singing carrying a semblance to Cathedral circa 2010’s “The Guessing Game”.

With the Dead’s music is slow, meditative and stupendously heavy, its stoning riffs and psychedelic vocalisations designed to sound amiable to drug users. The style is surprisingly modern, raw and sludgy like Monolord’s, with glacial litanies of low-end groove dictating the proceedings and then yielding to melodic injections that seesaw between the hallucinatory (“Crown of Burning Stars”), the grandiose (“Nephthys”) and the unsettling (“Living with the Dead”). The burn is slow and patient, but to be sure, both Greening’s phenomenal drumming performance, and Dorrian’s deftness at somehow moulding a memorable ‘chorus’ out of his throaty yells ensure that in spite of basing much of the formula on brooding repetitions, “With the Dead” seldom sounds tedious. The genre in mind, its soundscape is in fact exceptionally luxurious in terms of the riffs, rhythms, and melodies deployed, with only “Living with the Dead” deserving to be earmarked as too long, monotonous and suffocating to make a lasting impact even ifs raging refrains of the title do inevitable stick — amusingly, its standout moment appears at the very beginning in the form of a disturbing female voice proclaiming: ”I can’t help you. You see, I’m dead. Aren’t you?”, but the remainder of the track fails to deliver on that intrigue.

That sample would have served far better as a precursor to the mounting sense of fear and desperation in “The Cross”, a faster, nightmarish song laid onto a foundation of furious tribal percussion which forms one of the prongs in “With the Dead”’s trident of highlights. The other two are personified by the aforementioned “Nephthys” — the most traditionally ‘doom’ piece of the record, and the only one to feature a recognisable chorus: ”Nephthys, I feel you. Nephthys, you are my love. Nephthys, run to me. Nephthys, you are my death.” — and “I Am Your Virus”, which borrows the filth and groove from the NOLA scene and gets a wash of kaleidoscopic effects to be the closest With the Dead come to giving Cathedral some tribute as well. The fact that clear references to the various members’ past endeavours are so scarce is refreshing though. Granted, there are indisputable similarities to Electric Wizard’s ultra-griminess in almost every song here, but “With the Dead” nonetheless leaves the impression that Dorrian & co. have taken steps to establish With the Dead as a unique entity, and not simply the obvious result of former Cathedral and Electric Wizard members coming together in a jam session.

Rather, the album uses the lewd and horrific griminess of Electric Wizard as a basis, and embraces the artistic vision of Dorrian to build a more mysterious, psychoactive experience that is no less heavy, but is more accessible. As far as stoner-doom goes, With the Dead do not propose to usher in an upheaval of the genre’s traditions — there are no stark surprises up their sleeves outside of the horror element that both Cathedral and ‘Wizard are renowned for — but the experience of the four musicians involved is perpetually tangible. “With the Dead” plays like a drugged up, organic jam session, but one performed and recorded with the utmost precision.

8

Download: The Cross, Nephthys, I Am Your Virus
For the fans of: Electric Wizard, Monolord, Windhand
Listen: Facebook

Release date 16.10.2015
Rise Above Records

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