|Several demos preceded the release of this debut album off the multi-ethnic Londoners (a Greek and 2 Brooklynese brothers). The 3-piece is in their twenties and this is both positive and negative; it's good because it allows them to risk it all and dare where many other newcomers don't, preferring to travel over paths already trodden by older generations of musicians. Dead Man's Root are definitely innovative and remind me of the bands in the 70s that didn't feel any pressure from label companies to target their products, and this can be explained by the fact that "Mouth Breather" is self-released and unspoiled by A&R managers trying to catalogue their music to sell it easily and profusely.
The bad side of the coin comes from their relatively scarce experience (one demo and a few mini-tours helped for sure but are not enough yet): when you listen to any of the 7 tracks included here, you will notice that the structures and time changes are not as smooth as they would be required to; after multiple listens this feeling is reduced but still present, and the not top-notch mixing and the mastering in the first tracks seem to be the culprits, although I am aware the guys did want to deliver a raw and spontaneous outcome, keeping clear and powerful sounds often sending back to the 70s, which they were actually able to (maybe with an Aural Exciter?).
As to the lyrics, one will immediately realize they are intentionally pretty cryptic for the most part and therefore subject to different interpretations; it has to be stressed that they are quite mature and that songwriter Ben De La Cour has complete masterdom of his art, thanks to a multifold and appropriate use of a great deal of figures of speech that place him closer to poetry often times; from the typical hyperboles to the less known hypallages and anacolutha, the man achieves his peak in the verse 'Each drip a black rainbow of sound', joining an oxymoron and a synesthesia elegantly.
The artwork is minimal and bizarre, the way their music and attitude is. The 3 musicians are actually and undoubtely dealing with Metal, but they never lay on an area for a long time, so there is a lot inside each song and that is not a rather difficult task: that's why the aggressive opener "Herbert West" has melodic parts and references to Thrash metal, Melvins, Nirvana and atmospherical parts that will make you go crazy but also a blast beat not perfectly amalgamated with what comes before that ruins the composition.
"Sailor Song" is impetuous and skinning in the vein of Neurosis, Isis, etc., but contains grungy parts as well and even a short Thrash-Death structure avulsed from the rest but efficiently connected to the rest this time, luckily.
A short song destined to slaughter the first pits of the audiences is "Indie Fags Fuck off", simple but never boring, with an insertion of Zappian vocals, too.
Doom, Sludge, Melodic metal, Noise rock and Post-hardcore; some may call it Prog metal, but only with the secundary meaning of Avantguarde metal, and that would be correct, as you never know where they will bring the rollercoaster of their emotional composing, and here comes "Scales on Crow", the record's highlight, a song that challenges every rule of classical arranging with slow pace, idle vocals and Country/Bluegrass riffs, followed by psychedelic guitars sending you straight to the late 60s and their infuences of that epoch (Jimi Hendrix and Tom Waits).
An abyss of difference separates it from the follower, "Steel Horse Blues (The Plight)", mixing Hardcore riffs, relaxed-clean and man in pain's vocals alternated, funny stoned guitars in the background, and a bass fighting the drums to be heard, before the Post-hardcore structures come back to close the track.
Hardcore, Metal and full lung vocals characterize "March of the Dugong", enriched by sinister feedbacks in the middle; the pace is slow and there is also Doom but mostly it remains in the veins of Neurosis, but faster.
Around 11 minutes of thrilling music: that's what you have to expect from "Iron Whale", menacious, sneaking to stab you in the back while you're grasping in the darkness; and when it does, it will kill you with no hurry, blood drop by blood drop; it's a pity that the drumwork is not precise in the end, because it might have given so much more to the global impact.
The final impression is largely in favour of the trio, clearly in a state of inspirational grace and not devoid of talent at all. The area where they need to make improvements is the one related to keeping time in order to increase the symbiosis within the rhythmic section. I am not referring to a cold, computerized drumwork on the trail of Dimmu Borgir, but to more cohesion and precision during the recording. I know the drums start first and are the pillar of 99% of studio recordings, nevertheless a trained ear realizes the flaws, regardless they're just of few tenths of second.
Besides this, a bright future seems to stand before the English act playing Caveman Death 'n' Roll Blues, but only time will reveal what destiny has in store for them.
MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - August 20th, 2009
Line-up on this record:
Ben De La Cour - guitars, vocals
Alex De La Cour - drums
Jason "space crab" Porras - bass guitar
London - UK
-Dead Man's Root (demo - 2005)
-Mouth Breather ( CD - 2007)