Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dead Elephant - Thanatology (2011)

Attacking from all angles of genres, the experimental sludge band Dead Elephant has released a brand new album, entitled "Thanatology." This is the bands third studio album and has a lot of unique characteristics. Here you will find dark and eerie sounds mixed with monstrous chugging guitars and vicious growling vocals. They somehow manage to fit all of these elements into four lengthy tracks.

The first track on the album is "Bardo Thodol," which runs for just under 13 minutes long. Distorted sounds fade in as you're waiting for the music. One repetitive chord enters as it is constantly being hit over and over again. This is accompanied by haunting clean vocals that almost sounds like a priest praying in a very plain, monotone voice. Slowly, the drums start to roll in with snapping snares and shimmering cymbals in the background. This is interrupted by harsh growling that echoes over the guitars and bass. You will also notice some interesting effects used on this section of growls where a lot of the high frequencies have been cut leaving a staticy and unclear sound. The structure changes frequently keeping you hooked the entire time. There are some slower gloomy parts in between that may turn boring at first but give the track time as you will see that it is all used to set up a creative and dark image to the music. When the drums come back in, they are followed with exploding chugging guitars as distortion fills the air quickly. The riffs will have you bobbing your head. There is also more demonic growls with a lot of power that follow as well. The quiet breaks in between were definitely worth waiting for once you get to these magnificent parts of the song.

"On The Stem" is the next track on the album and plays for a little over nine minutes long. Eerie synths take over the atmosphere as guitar notes are picked at little by little. This definitely takes you more towards the quiet, calm side for the first half of the song. Similar to the first track, you need to be patient as you'll find it becomes heavier towards the middle of the song. Booming bass lines and demolishing guitar riffs come plowing in over the drums. The vocals go from soothing spoken word to violent and relentless growls and screams in the matter of seconds. The time signature is interesting later in the song as the instruments change up their timing. You'll also notice that there are two types of vocals going on at the very end. There is a lower heavier vocal which is combined with a louder and more destructive scream on top

The shortest song on the album, "Destrudo," has a lot more action and excitement to it. You are immediately hit with dirty guitar riffs and ground shaking drum fills. The growls are insane as they constantly beat you down with rapid lyrics. Meanwhile, cymbals are crashing all around you as you are lead by hell raising guitars. Also the bass lines are absolutely ridiculous. This is definitely the heaviest track on the album.

This brings us to the fourth and final track, entitled "A Teardrop On Your Grave/ Downfall Of Xibalba." From the way the title is split, it seems like this was, at one point, two separate pieces. The overall total length is 16 minutes and 22 seconds long. The first 8 minutes of the song is mostly dark dreary sounds and synths. After that comes violent guitar riffs blaring with distortion while deafening drums blast away with snare and cymbal combos layered with heavy kicks. Later, you will also hear some more devilish synths in the background as the guitars continue chugging. The only issue with this track is that there are no real solid vocals like the other tracks. There are one or two small clips of muffled growls that sound more like instruments that vocals. I'm not sure if this is what they were going for or if the vocals just weren't well mixed. Either way, it would have nice to hear a little more of the reckless growling vocals that were delivered earlier in the album.

Packing a psychedelic punch of mixed sounds, "Thanatology" is by far one of the most unique albums that I have heard all year. The song structure is genius and the image that the album produces is dark and strange at the same time. Dead Elephant did a terrific job on twisting and mashing different tempos and melodies together while being able to put calm, eerie, and destructive tones in as well. Whether you like this style of music or not, this is definitely an album to check out.


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