Published on January 14th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron


Review: Captains of Industry by DEAD

News of good new music travels fast and travels far. The other day, after paying for an hour’s time at a rehearsal studio in Umeda, I got talking with the longhaired dude behind the desk. I point to a pole poster advertising local band PALM.

“Great band,” I venture.

“You know dead?” he fires back instantly.

Uh, pardon? Are they…?

He digs in a pocket, jacks in a phone, and punches a button on the console. A molasses of thick, sludgy bass comes bursting out of the monitors.

“This is DEAD.” He sits back in his chair with a satisfied grin that reaches from one ear to the other, as the dirty wave of noise washes over us. “Best band in world.”

Are you surprised at my tears, sir?

Are you surprised at my tears, sir?

There’s a strong musical kinship that binds a section of Melbourne’s underground with the vibrant and diverse indie scene in Osaka. It’s becoming almost like an artistic collective, with Japanese bands such as Cyberne, PALM, Knealt, Teratova, and cult head-music two-piece Ryokuchi (RIP) teaming with Melbourne acts Spider Goat Canyon, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, and Whitehorse—to name a few—in hosting each other in their home cities. The mutual respect for everyone’s music is clear, and these tours do a lot to keep the bands sounding fresh and invigorated by new ideas.

So it should be no surprise that guys behind studio mixing desks, record store counters, and merchandise tables at gigs in Osaka are raving about bands like DEAD. One listen to the two-piece’s latest release Captains of Industry announces them as a world-class act punching well above their weight in both songcraft and sheer, punishing force.

Fools Will Get You Everywhere opens with ominous, galloping floor toms, the shifting rhythms and off-kilter rolls heralding Dale Crover’s influence while showcasing drummer Jem’s ability to seize you by the throat right out of the gates, forcing you to pay attention to the power and inventiveness of his playing. Aggressive stabs of overdriven bass bleed in as the vocalist roars, “This one’s a monster, off with his head!” The song tumbles down a rabbithole of head-nodding, fuzzed-out riffage, the bass snarling and ripping at the drums as they snake and spiral around it. This one is a monster.

Barely pausing for breath, Robert Plant: Shh kicks in, drums striking with Bruce Lee power and precision through a doomy bassline and throat-tearing screams. It’s exhilarating, the vocal delivery is somewhere between Mark of Cain’s John Scott and King Buzzo of the Melvins.

Track three brings welcome respite in a spooky montage of tinkles and plinks from broken toys and some sort of creepy breathing before the fourth cut, Gold Rush Burials, opens with trademark percussive force.

Capitalism disemboweled in "Captains of Industry"

Capitalism disemboweled in “Captains of Industry”

At which point it’s necessary to make a sidenote: whoever produced and mixed this album did a fine job. Listening with a decent amp and headphones, there’s a real sense of space around each drum despite the huge amount of dynamic real estate the bass takes up with all pedals engaged. Bass overdubs soar from left to right speaker, creating a sense of headroom, and complex drum fills are rendered with three-dimensional realism. Many bands setting out to reinvent Melvins or Godflesh fail because the glorious noise of the live house sounds a flat, muddy mess on tape.

Captains of Industry, meanwhile, has been cleverly recorded, sympathetically produced, and mixed with imagination. It sounds big and aggressive but not at the expense of the silence between notes hidden in those off-beat fills and subtle timing changes. Which, I suspect, are what DEAD is all about.

Track five is a couple of minutes of atmospheric noises to provide contrast for Check the Exits—a fast-strumming, pummeling slab punctuated by a really cool slide bass and catchy, melodic vocals. It’s probably way off the mark, but “Deftones” floated through my head at this point. This guy can do more than scream. And it was the first track that made me think—this song sounds different. As the album’s centerpiece, it provides the biggest hint at where the band might go next.

Nakaken continues the frenetic pace—complete with black metal scream—before another campfire interlude of spooky saucepan scratching and chimes and bells and other vaguely tribal sounds usher in album closer Beyond the Digging Stick, a seven-minute summary of all that makes DEAD so great.

Big riffs get the head nodding, drums have you pounding the steering wheel, and most importantly, there are dynamics, songwriting chops, and composition interesting enough to keep you immersed in the music—and not looking for the skip button.

Not content with aping their heroes, DEAD are a band with something to say, and they say it loud on Captains of Industry. Fans of heavy, inventive music—don’t miss out on this one.

Captains of Industry is out on We Empty Rooms. Vinyl, CD, and digital copies can be purchased on the label’s bandcamp website.

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Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

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