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CHER'S SON EXACTS HIS REVENGE
Who would've thought the son of Cher and Gregg Allman (of the Allman Brothers) could graduate from prep school and take his revenge on contemporary music with an earnest and dark synth and guitar exploration of progrock and the occult?
Not me. Anyone but me.
I'd heard the name DEADSY a few times. They were on the 2001 Family Values Tour, and monster-truck-voiced radio ads told me they were opening for recent KORN and STATIC-X tours, but I hadn't heard their music. So I figured I might catch them next time I had control of a TV with cable music channels.
And I did. And they were so much stranger than anything electronic I'd seen on those channels in a while. They were like mad alchemists, some sort of extraordinarily surreal realm where preppy clothes and goth makeup combined but what impressed me was the strangeness of the music
Back, a few too many years ago, in college, we used to sit in a dark room, nothing but black candles burning, and listen to the early NINE INCH NAILS singles. Today's rap-rock / Nü metal doesn't possess that level of spook-creepy enchantment. I guess it's hard to maintain a spiritually grounded atmosphere of gloom and terror when the lead singer's vocals sound like Cookie Monster.
That's why Deadsy's debut album, COMMENCEMENT, just might drag a few goth-synthmetal faithful toward a new point in the constellations. Maybe it's what would happen if Brian Eno and METALLICA jammed Depeche Mode, Yes and King Crimson covers and landed in development hell for a few years, but it's weirder - and more significant - than that.
The lead singer, P. Exeter Blue I, really is Elijah Blue, the son of Cher and Gregg Allman, but just let that peculiarity go. Ignore it. His lyrics, voice, and the rest of the band sound so unlike whatever you'd think his parents' child would do that you can just forget that part.
Track by track it goes like this:
The Key to Gramercy Park: is the closest to rap-rock they get. It's got Jonathan Davis on faint back-ups. The keyboards squeal, and when P. Exeter Blue I sings about rising from the grave, I believe him. Wherever the Key leads (I have a good guess), it's a spooky place.
Winners: revolves around a Brian Eno sample with solid guitarwork overtop. It's a mournful lament - pretending to be happy for the successes of others, but only pretending. Like all the lyrics, when he says "suck the marrow of life", he means it.
Brand New Love: is a SEBADOH cover, but they make it all their own. Plus, how many of you know SEBADOH? You should; plus DEADSY do a cover of a song by the band Sweet, but it's not on this album. "Anyone can be a brand new love." If his voice weren't so serious, it wouldn't be so creepy.
Mansion World: "Tetragram presents a sign, a sign to saviorize." "Climb the tree of life in hopes to find, the mid-space time dilation." I assure you, it's real. The lyrics and the keyboard, the choppy chuggy bleeps. Duran Duran on ketamine.
Lake Waramaug: is a wild tribute to an Alma Mater, or a theme song for a rowing team racing across the forked rivers in Hell. (Actually, remembrances of a real lake in Connecticut.) Picture the strange tune you'd have written to celebrate your summer camp and your memories if you liked summer camp. And maybe a few l'il campers drowned.
The Elements: has the line "Taste us or make us slaves till Death like the Paw-nee". This is one of the black candle songs. DEADSY shows everything they are on this one. Meditative, expressive, brooding, and inquisitive. Even if it's progrock enough to turn off the hardcore goths.
Flowing Glower: Somewhat like Lake Waramaug, it's more of a ballad. It's the first Deadsy song Elijah wrote. The vocals really drone. A calm stillness. When he sings "I'm bi-polar", he really, really means it.
Future Years: has Jay Gordon from ORGY guesting on the track, like a few others. It's a graduation theme song for a far darker world than ours. And that's a beautiful thing. I hope a truly freaky high school uses this one's lyrics in their yearbook.
She Likes Big Words: tees off out of Future Years. It's pure dancy 80s pop. With the squeaky high-bop of Thomas Dolby. John Taylor from Duran Duran plays bass, to complete the hybridization. Still, I'll take lines like, "She bites the heads of her mutual friends."
Cruella: I guess it's a potential favorite track. "A glory hole, which through gaze her eyes of gold." Some might mistake this as the classic She Done Me Wrong song, but they'd be so far off. At its worst, this one is She Done Me Wrong And I Loved It. "Kind of like Shakespearean prose, without the rose." At its best, Aleister Crowley's concept of the "Scarlet Woman" has never been captured with more fervor.
Seagulls (The Macroprosopus): begins the descent into morbid chanting, further beyond the grave stuff. If you want distorted guitars, echo chants, buzzy synth squelches for your next attempt at astral travel, you're there. Like all the tracks, the sculpted musicianship gets more interesting the farther they let themselves go astray
Le Cirque En Rose (Obsolescence): is another well-placed one. Almost Marilyn Manson-y in a good way. It's another song about the dead coming back to life - but, also, in a good way.
Tom Sawyer: (?) I know. If the trend is an obligatory cover, why didn't they stick with something interesting and obscure like Sebadoh? Well, probably because DEADSY wears their love of heartfelt artrock on their alligator-shirted sleeves, so we'll forgive their solid nod to the classic freethinker's anthem by RUSH. Plus, they're the kind of band that likes to do covers.
Commencement: the final and title track, ends COMMENCEMENT right where it should. Fourteen tracks. Sixty-eight minutes or so. The final song is the anthem for the next gathering of your black congregation. I love this debut album because, by the time the band has taken you here, you know they're not kidding. They love the blood-drenched pomp of it all, but they're not posing their way through "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." They're going for it with all cylinders firing.
People forget that Aleister Crowley was a very accomplished mountain climber.
Admittedly, you can tell the album bounced from label to label. The band's morbid and twisted heart is so on their Lacoste and J. Crew sleeves that they succumb to all the pretensions of artrock, but they know it and it's on purpose. They've declared their sound "Undercore". The songs, unto themselves, cover a wide range - but the tracks are sequenced so well that the concept of "initiation" overrides the eccentricities and resonates throughout.
This isn't a pansy-ass, wannabe, glimpse into the occult either.
We're talking the real deal, practice your rituals, learn the lessons, earn your ORDO TEMPLI ORIENTIS degrees from 0° Minerval to XII° Frater Superior stuff here. The website has DEADSY's manifesto (by now, you knew they'd have one) where they say, "Deadsy is an institution that was developed to purify and primify the human solution of sound and vision."
Yes, it would be cheesy if they didn't mean it so hard.
I don't think anybody else, even the extremes of doom and death metal have done this much full-bore book learning when it comes to magick. In other words, the symbols aren't just symbolism, they're legit, thought-provoking examinations of the real deal mind and spirit techniques, most obviously coming from Aleister Crowley, but with some other of his favorite influences (the Egyptian vibe, the Rosicrucian tip, the Golden Dawn, John Dee) coming in by nature of the lyrical exploration of occult and magickal themes.
So, admittedly, there's a gothic, new wave melodrama to the disc, but sonically and metaphysically, the band knows what they're doing. It's good melodrama: dripping, flowery, velveteen and pure
And really, if some synthy-gothy-artsy metal band is going to lead us further into the New Aeon, shouldn't it be Cher's firstborn son?
If you're drooling for a new release from Limp Bizkit, this probably isn't going to fit into your collection - but if ORGY's artsier tracks or TOOL's progrock sound explorations are your cup of tea, you might find DEADSY's Commencement to be a nice disc to add into you mix.
To keep from misleading the Nü-metalers, we'll call it Four and a Half Perplexed Skulls for you, but if you're seeking modern permutations of gloomy, earnestly perplexing progrock, it's a Five.
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.