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Ever Heavier: With the Dead’s “Love From With the Dead”

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When the hype machine started rolling for With the Dead’s eponymous debut in 2015, we had a pretty good idea of what it would sound like. Lee Dorrian with Electric Wizard’s rhythm section? Check. Doom upon doom, lots of witches, Hammer films, motorcycles… take your pick. To a degree, that’s part of what we got, but there was more.

With the Dead firmly established a new dimension of doom metal apart from what the band members had accomplished with their respective previous outfits. While the sinister psychedelia/Manson’s Summer Of Love vibe that inhabits Cathedral and Electric Wizard’s work was still a focal point, the album was drenched in a nihilistic dread, eschewing campy aesthetics for a more existential take on what doom really means. “This murdered heart / This blackened soul / Anguish all I hold / Life’s taken its toll.” A carnival bizarre, this ain’t.

So, when you succeed in making the heaviest, most despondent doom album possible, what comes next? Simple: make the second album heavier. It’s easily the most repeated cliché in metal, but it rings true here — Love From With the Dead (which releases this Friday) is crushingly heavier than its predecessor, and just about anything else you’ll come across this year. It might have something to do with a lineup shuffle – Mark Greening is out, drummer Alex Thomas (Bolt Thrower) and bassist Leo Smee (Cathedral) are in – allowing co-founder Tim Bagshaw to focus solely on his guitar work.

There are also external forces in play. In talking about making the album, Dorrian laments that “…there’s been a lot of personal shit going on, and during this whole process so much fucking bad shit has happened in my personal life and other people’s personal lives. Everything you hear on this LP, the angst is very real.”

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From opener “Isolation” into “Egyptian Tomb,” the central riffs repeat methodically, almost droning, before being broken up by Bagshaw’s mournful, Gilmour-esque solos. Smee and Thomas do far more than keep the beat; they’re on a whole other level of sonic intensity. Smee’s bass tone should be the envy of every hasher on the planet, and Thomas hits everything like a ten-ton hammer right up front in the mix. No doubt this is partially due to the masterful production of Jaime Gomez Arellano, whose Orgone Studios has become a mecca for top quality metal acts (doom or otherwise).

Though Love From With the Dead has only one more song than the first album, it’s also nearly a half hour longer. As the album proceeds, it becomes a tougher listen. “Cocaine Phantoms” finds Dorrian’s vocals becoming more drawn out, tortured, and desperate. He starts to lose his signature sing-song vocal inflection, giving way to a droning caterwaul. The music follows suit, slowing down to a lumbering, deliberate cadence. Bagshaw’s time in NYC sludge/doom crew Serpentine Path sounds like it has informed some of his work here.

The closing epic mindtrip “CV1” is an endurance test; what begins with a riff heavy enough to be a clarion call on the river Styx slowly and maddeningly descends into hellish soundscapes and screams of an almost Lovecraftian origin. (Noise enthusiasts will be happy to know Dorrian’s fellow Coventry resident, electro-noise artist Russell Haswell, contributes to the aural assault on this track). Again, “heavy” takes on a new meaning in the context of With the Dead’s goals. Then again, so does “love.”

Love From With the Dead is scheduled for release September 22nd via Rise Above Records. Follow With the Dead on Facebook here.

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