I had a great impression of Gojira after seeing them live at the last ever Heavy T.O. festival in Toronto. They’d been running through a solid rendition of “Oroborous” and the weather was mercifully clear. When the climax in that song came, though, a torrential downpour started as if on cue. While they’re far from my favourite band, that odd little moment was one of the most memorable things not related to injuries that happened at a concert. As a story, it’s not very good; you had to be there to appreciate it. When it comes to old style death metal, it’s nice to hear a band who was there give us a taste of what they made of it, and as we’re all getting older and being-toward-death like Heidegger said, these records will only decrease in number in the coming years. Portland’s Dead Conspiracy was formed in 1986, and their self-titled full length is being unleashed thirty years after their beginning; here’s hoping they have a good memory.
It shouldn’t surprise you that Dead Conspiracy plays the sort of death metal that has little in common with modern incarnations of it or even Morbid Angel, but rather sounds like over the top thrash. My first impression was a less punky war metal or Possessed on speed but with less cool solos. Very early Sodom is a good reference as well. Blast beats, ripping riffs, and throat-shredding screams are the order of the day, and the band rarely takes their eye off that ball. Canadian war metal like Blasphemy seems to play a role in the sound as well, but given that Fallen Angel of Doom came out four years after Dead Conspiracy formed, they may just be drawing from the same well of inspiration.
Where Dead Conspiracy succeeds is when they stick to the basics. They’re quite adept at being an old style death metal band (“old school death metal” would give the wrong connotations), and fortunately, they do this rather consistently. “Cruelty through Ripping Torture” begins with a ripping thrash riff, and its chorus sounds like Gravehill’s Mike Abominator can hardly keep up with the phrasing. It’s a bit sloppy but it works like a charm, bringing some decidedly not clinical extremity to the fore. While Dead Conspiracy tends to traffic in two or three-minute songs, “Antietam — Vultures Feeding” is the best tune here, and it’s a seven-minute number. Perhaps it’s some slower riffs getting more time than normal to breathe and be effective, the actually effective piano intro, the use of buildups and climaxes, a slightly more complex and song structure, better than average riffing, or all of the above, but while a whole record of this would be superfluous one song of it really makes a great impression.
Being consistent as they are, Dead Conspiracy can get a wee bit monotonous at times. Fortunately, this isn’t the eyes glazed over monotony but rather Dragonforce syndrome monotony, where one song is hard to tell apart from the others. Unlike ninety-nine percent of war metal, this doesn’t become too grating, but a series of good hyperactive thrash riffs doesn’t propel itself into greatness. Opener “Blood Everywhere” starts rather memorably, but after that, things start to blend together quickly. It’s like one long, spastic, but thankfully good song up until the high-quality mid-album climax comes up. The biggest complaint is that, unlike Seven Churches, there aren’t a whole lot of standout riffs; this is stuff that you won’t remember any specifics of for too long, but you’ll remember that this is a record worth playing.
I have no complaints whatsoever about how Dead Conspiracy is produced. Bass is clear and punchy, guitars are treble and sound like scythes, and drums sound like they were recorded on a low-budget in the best way. There are no tricks here, just raw skill and metal. No, Dead Conspiracy won’t make my end of the year list, but it will make a good thing to throw on when I crave some vicious, no-frills death the old way. This record probably won’t make many folks’ regular rotation, but it’s certainly worth hearing and a nice blast from the past for those of us who didn’t grow up with this stuff. If this would’ve come out in the later 80s, it would’ve been a good but not classic or even great record. Take that as you will, and listen, if you please.