A quick search of Neurosis on our wonderful website is quite revealing. Of the first twenty reviews or mentions of those elder statesmen, Yours Truly is responsible for five of the links — more than any other reviewer. That means either I love that band more than other AMG thralls or I dislike them the least. Which is interesting to me, as I’m certainly not the one here that’s into the heaviest music, for I am olde, and my ears are tender (when they aren’t ringing). So here I go again, getting suckered into a review where Neurosis, Helmet, and Isis are listed as similar acts. Dead Is Dead is the act, Constraints of Time is their debut album, and these Milwaukee post-doom aficionados are going to do their damnedest to channel their inner Neurosis beast for our earache-inducing pleasure.
First, that album cover: a smoking crater in a seared landscape. If that doesn’t hint enough, here comes “Faults and Failings,” the opening cut, which enters calmly on foreboding atmospherics and some clean doom riffing. Dead Is Dead are in no rush to get moving, but when they do, a minute into this seven-minute opener, we are greeted with raw, expansive post-metal, singer/guitarist Eric Madl wailing “No gods, no devils, no chains across my shoulders…no faults and failings.” It’s a massive song which ebbs and flows between brief moments of contemplation and furious, fuzz-drenched pummeling. Throughout it all there is the underlying current of discomfort that makes the song stick in your head like a rusty railroad spike. Neurosis would be proud.
Constraints of Time is only comprised of six songs, clocking in at a mere 41 minutes, and as I’ve made mention of many times before the “less is more” approach also leaves less room for error. At eight minutes, “Faults and Failings” is the second-longest track here, and does lag a bit around the six-minute mark, but as a whole, it succeeds. Not to fall into a repetitive trap, “No Longer, No Longer” begins with a completely off-kilter riff that morphs into a multi-layered bit of nastiness before long. It’s a shorter song (the band goes with the long-short-long theme) and features quieter moments with spoken-word vocals submerged amongst the guitars before massive bursts of distortion bathe the song towards the ending. It leads into my favorite track on the album, “Reproach of Man.” Subdued to begin, Madl mutters above the atmospherics until the band crashes in with a gargantuan, ponderous riff that slides into two other different riffs before Madl and his fury-laced howls enter. It’s an epic track that packs a huge wallop and is worth multiple speaker-shredding replays.
Of interest to some might be the fact that the rhythm section here is Mark and Nick Sheppard, formerly of Forstella Ford, an underground post-hardcore band from the olden days. I’m not familiar with that band, but the track “Wolves” might be the closest Dead Is Dead comes to embracing their past. A mid-paced, thick hardcore song with a lot of shouting buried in the mix, it is the weakest track on Constraints of Time, and after a handful of listens, I found myself too impatient to let it play out. The rest of the album is too good, as is the production and mastering. Constraints of Time is a very raw-sounding album. It sounds like we are in the room with the band as they churn through these numbers – and how refreshing to hear the snare part of a snare drum! The quiet moments breathe just the right amount, while the walls of distortion and howls are suitably claustrophobic. The band knows their vocals aren’t the selling point, and keep them a respectable distance from the foreground — interesting since the singer handled all production.
What it all boils down to is a solid, engrossing, dynamic debut effort. Despite the miss of “Wolves,” the other five songs present are all compelling and varied enough to keep me coming back when I want to bury myself in some thick, sludgy nastiness. The three epic tracks are definitely that, wading through the realms of doom, sludge, and even a bit of psych-stoner on the closer “Earth as it’s Slowly Consumed by the Sun,” all with the harsh post-metal underpinnings created by Neurosis. For fans of this kind of music, Dead Is Dead is a welcome addition to the family — and damned close to a 4.0 out of 5.0.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Triple Eye Industries
Websites: deadisdeadmke.bandcamp.com | dead-is-dead.com | facebook.com/deadisdeadmke
Releases Worldwide: September 22nd, 2017