Tuesday 6 October 2015

Dead To A Dying World - Litany (Album Review)

Release date: October 16th 2015. Label: Tofu Carnage / Gilead Media / Alerta Antifascista. Formats: CD/DD/Vinyl

Litany – Tracklisting

The Hunt Eternal
Beneath The Loam
Sick & Sunder

Band Members:

Mike Yeager - Vocals
Heidi Moore - Vocals
Eva Vonne - Viola
Sean Mehl - Guitar
Gregg Prickett - Guitar
James Magruder - Bass guitar
Cyrus Meyers - Drums


Texas, with its expansive blue skies and red state status, might seem an unlikely birthplace for a shadow dwelling metal act like Dead To A Dying World. However, history has proven that extreme music can proliferate in a muggy outpost like Florida so a hostile environment can definitely breed a formidable scene. This Dallas septet’s uncompromising sensory onslaught on their sophomore album Litany is wickedly out of step with the Lone Star State’s more celebrated progeny (SRV, Los Lonely Boys anyone?) and that’s no accident.

This collective has far more pressing matters to contemplate, such as the future of our environmentally threatened planet. Dead To A Dying World uses “blackened apocalyptic doom” as a musical description and it is an apt one. Unlike the infamous Waco doomsday cult a mere ninety-six miles from their hometown, the misanthropic members of this faction channel their visions of Armageddon and its aftermath into a unique brand of protean art.

Dead To A Dying World play a blend of crust, psychedelia, post-rock and various other derivations of heavy music. Fronted by vocalists Mike Yeager and Heidi Moore, the collective vacillates between cataclysmic sections and tranquil anticipatory moments. The ground shifts constantly beneath these compositions which eschew rational structure for an almost ceremonial ebb and flow. Adding to the mood of heightened emotion are the viola contributions of Eva Vonne, alternately impassioned and solemn.

The pagan tone of “Cicatrix” evokes a dim forest ritual with its blended harmony vocals, creepy guitar plucks and thunderous timpani. This track broods and revels in its repetitious structure, never allowing the building tension to release. “Eventide” is an overpowering wave of a track and Yeager bellows atop the anthemic strains of its guitar and strings. At the seven minute mark, his co-vocalist adds throaty accompaniment and the track segues into a somber fissure. One can almost picture the serene aftermath of a natural disaster, so primeval is this fourteen-minute epic. The bleakness of the extended middle section segues into a military drum tattoo which lightens the mood, if only slightly.

No way around it. This is dark, serious music with little room for humor or levity of any kind. Litany is a record for reflecting on the grim side of the human experience. The lyrics make both vague and specific reference to humanity’s distress. The following verse from “The Hunt Eternal” provides a glimpse into Dead To A Dying World’s cheerless yet unquestionably resolute worldview.

Torn skin consumed by plague
Famine does not assuage
Resigned unto this fate
Monochrome crushing wave
Wince in pain broken sight
Bound to us by bridled right

Sure, this is a stanza rife with melodrama but so are most songs about the end of days. It’s the conviction in the delivery which makes the record so chilling.

As days turned we abandoned our gods
Our mouths rotten with the flavor or our own

They certainly don’t sugarcoat. While the first few numbers bludgeon the listener with blast beats before bathing them in a stark beauty, the band isn't afraid to diversify its approach. One such example is the waltz time pattern of “Beneath the Loam” which adds a European flavor to the proceedings. This song also flirts with unusually jazzy guitar shapes before shrieking demonic vocals appear and the decimation begins anew.

Somewhere along the way all this dreariness becomes unexpectedly intoxicating. The dynamic shifts feel essential, fated even. Members of like-minded despair merchants Pallbearer and Sabbath Assembly make appearances but the consistency of mood renders their contributions subservient to the whole. A key player is celebrated metal producer Billy Anderson who turns in some of his best work in recent years. Litany showcases his skills beyond the indelible mark he has made on the worlds of sludge and stoner rock. All parties involved seem part of a hive mind in support of the unrelenting despondency of the material. Be grateful for this, as few acts this side of Neurosis, Crass or Pink Floyd are capable of wrenching such loveliness out of torment.

Words by Ari Rosenschein

Thanks to Earsplit PR for the promo. Litany will be available to buy on Vinyl and CD from Gilead Media while the Vinyl Release will be handled by Tofu Carnage / Gilead Media in North America and Alerta Antifascista in Europe on October 16th 2015.