I went into this review fully intending to give this band the middle finger. I can't exactly explain my thoughts behind this, but I can say that it started with how the album was introduced to me:
“This self-titled, debut double-LP from Dead To A Dying World is for those who truly appreciate the aesthetic value of deluxe packaging and heavyweight color vinyl. The album is pressed on 200-gram, translucent green wax and features heavyweight jackets, metallic-silver printed innersleeves and gatefold graphic, and is neatly enclosed in a heavy-duty slipcase. Mastered at 45rpm for superior sound quality, this is an album that was truly meant for vinyl.”
This description sent me, quite uncharacteristically, on the metaphorical war path. What band thinks they can come out of nowhere, write a three-track debut, and insist on the superior quality of not only its music but also its goddamn packaging and format? No band should ever have that much chutzpah. After downloading it from their Facebook page, I set up my media player and prepared myself to write the thrashing of a lifetime.
And that's where my tale of preemptive book-judging ends and my story of musical humility begins.
I had no idea an album could sound this fucking good. You can tell merely in the opening moments of “Concrete and Steel” that this album was recorded superbly. You can hear the bowing of the strings so clearly that you could count each stroke. In fact, every instrument is recorded with such sparkling clarity and at such a high quality that you'll never listen to other music in the same way again. The vocals in particular sound almost disturbingly well done; these are the best-sounding harsh vocalists you will likely hear, ever. The mixing is absolutely perfect as well; every instrument is perfectly audible, no matter how dense the recording gets. And believe you me, this album gets dense enough to put the likes of Dirge and Godspeed You! Black Emperor to shame. I happily admit: whatever snobbery these guys have towards inferior formatting of their music has been painstakingly earned.
The biggest issue I had with this album, actually, was trying to accurately describe it without dropping too many names. Dead to a Dying World sounds like a combination of Through Silver in Blood-era Neurosis (namedrop count = 3) and recent works from The Ocean Collective (4), combining beautifully orchestrated string instruments and lightly strummed guitars alongside disarmingly weighty metal from a vast array of genres. “Concrete and Steel,” for example, starts out sounding like a rather macabre waltz, something that sounds like the Diablo Swing Orchestra (5) on downers. Then just three minutes later, the piece takes a sudden turn into heavy metal territory, complete with echoing, large vocals and enormous electric guitar à la Devin Townsend (6). “Stagnation” features crunching, overdubbed guitars reminiscent of Boris' Feedbacker (7) or even Sunn O))) (8), as well as some intriguing folk-inspired riffing that wouldn't be far out of place in Opeth's (9) catalogue. The final track even features some Megadeth-esque (10) thrash elements, just in case there wasn't already enough going on.
What's better, even the non-musical details on this album are beautifully constructed, right down to the song titles. My favourite is certainly “We Enter the Circle at Night... and Are Consumed by Fire,” a translation of the Latin palindrome in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni. Now that's a title that would put anything from Demilich (11) to shame. In fact, the only thing about this album that I didn't immediately love was the cover art, and even that began to grow on me after a while. Every time I look at it I can't help but think of Iron Maiden's (final count = 12) Eddie, for some odd reason.
I've only discovered one thing completely unforgivable with this album: the band seems to have no concept of tempo. Speeds are interchanged without reason or artistic merit, the playing is often asynchronous, and frankly, it sounds flat-out sloppy at times. It's not noticeable enough to make the experience terribly worse, but to attentive ears, its presence is difficult to overlook. Okay, and the band's logo is also pretty terrible, but that's neither here nor there.
What it all boils down to is this: I was a preemptively judging ass, and in this case, it turned back against me with great ferocity. This album isn't perfect, I grant you, but for a first-time showing from a fledgling act on a tiny label, this is stupefying. What's more, the entire thing is still available for free on their Facebook page. Even if you're not interested in vinyl, you have no excuse not to hear this album.
8.5 / 10
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