Friday, August 30, 2013

Die Like Gentlemen - Romantic Delusions of Hell (2013)

Band: Die Like Gentlemen. Album: Romantic Delusions Of Hell. Style: Well, now, that is a different question entirely. hailing from Portland, Oregon, this four piece act has a sound that could easily be described as different. Separately, most of the pieces would sound familiar. But together, they form bonds, and create new molecules of metal that might not have been heard in this form to date. Thanks to the addition of strange new elements, namely a vocal that is as odd as the oddest of odd things, they manage to both define and redefine their own genre numerous times over the course of forty minutes. Simplified, where is damn near impossible to do here, they are taking on the new wave of sludge, but with their rose colored prog glasses resting gently on their collected faces. By no means are we comparing the confusing rollercoaster ride of "Romantic Delusions Of Hell" to any particular classic Hollywood film; But in the world of modern metal, you have your Citizen Kane's, your Die Hard's, in 2013, we finally got our Dr. Strangelove. 

It's hard to hide the layer of polish and richness that emanates from "Covetous," as the prog tones dominate the early going. As delicately played as the guitars are here, it is the bass line that becomes the focal point. But it also provides your first glimpse of the unique vocal style that will be your guide throughout the album. Somewhere between melodic crooning and amelodic shouting, depending on what point of the song you skip to, it can be endearing or simply confounding. It adds to the depth of the recording, in an odd way, but also reinforces the head swaying ability this music has. They've found a dynamic here that is rare, truly taking on the progressive sludge tag. It carries through, well into "Setting The Features," which is again bolstered by a bass line that is subtle but powerful. Everything is done with a smooth texture, never jumpy or scatterbrained. But as the instrumental gains strength, it is the vocal that now seems off putting. Having lost any sort of melodic edge, the raspy yelling just doesn't match the tone of the rest of the band. It actually runs contrary to the main groove, a distorted guitar riff that could easily inspire a crowd to rock back and forth together.

Luckily, that particular vocal delivery is fleeting, and returns to a much more digestible one on "Ten Hells." This may be the one instance where it shares a much due spotlight with the guitar leads, and adds something special to the mix. The band finds their strongest points when they wander from the center, and go off on tangents within the track, as they do several times here. The ability to not only seamlessly go from hazy to focused, but murky to melodic is a talent that should be mentioned over and over again. Even as the vocal line does acrobatics, the down tempo grooves continue. The song that may garner the most attention is the eclectic anthem "Lair Of Zargon," which contains easily the most catchy guitar hooks on the album. Strange as it may seem, it'd be hard to keep your feet from tapping to the beat. Where it fits onto the album, though, remains to be seen, as it becomes a sideshow to the main event. It's the pacing that makes "Reign In Hell" work on so many levels; or is it the ringing distortion? Regardless of what your main takeaway from the track is, it has an undeniable knack of catching your ear and holding on for dear life. The vocals now rest, halfway between their best and worst aspects, and finding that balance may have been the key to getting this far.

It's unlikely that you will find another album, this year or any other, that has such a lock-tight grip on the bizarre and varied. From start to finish, Die Like Gentlemen keep you moving right in step with them, thanks to a style all their own. You want to keep listening, just so you can see where they go from here. But by no means do they have to drag you kicking and screaming; their music is the carrot on a stick, leading you along the path. With a mere five songs, they have forged an identity, something that can take some bands years, or even their entire career. Yes, some moments are stranger than others. Hell, some moments might make no sense at all, thanks to Peter Steele on ten packs a day vocal lines. But when you put some new logic to the test, it all comes together... somehow. Not everyone will appreciate the weirdness that "Romantic Delusions of Hell" puts out. But chances are, if you let down your guard for a minute, you'll be hooked too. Join the club.


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