Sugar and spice and just a dash of…sludge? Last time, the New York three-piece Dead Empires released an album was in 2012, with the vastly interesting debut LP Waiting In Waves. Happily, new material is upon us! The group’s latest release, entitled Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent, will appear on Feb. 3, 2015, and my pre-release copy tells me that it’s ready to rock bodies and titillate cochleae.
Dead Empires is an instrumental three-piece outfit from upstate New York, who have made it a habit over the last few years of rampaging across New England with their unique brand of musicality. Much in the way a mosaic is constructed, combining fragments of vastly different materials and colors to form a thought-provoking final product, Dead Empires take a range of musical styles that when viewed closely seem vastly different, but when taken as a whole compose a breathtaking, organic experience. 100% Gluten Free – Guaranteed. I’m not sure about Kosher though.
So, onto the meat and potatoes of the review. Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent seems like a natural progression from Waiting In Waves, but continues a number of established traditions. The new release is more polished, thanks in part, no doubt, to their grand prize win at the 2013 Hudson Battle of the Bands competition which allowed them once again to record with D. James Goodwin (Devo, Murder By Death, Norah Jones). Additionally, when the last album was released, bassist DJ Scully had only just joined the band, which was at that time a four-piece. The two guitarists at the time, one of which is current member John Bryan, took turns on bass duty for recording the album. Thus, on Secret Snakes we get to see what Scully can really bring to the band, and it is some low-end goodness, such as his rapidly riffed lines in “Five Day Death.” This also allows Bryan to focus more on his guitar duties, as he slathers the release in a coat of sludge and proceeds to lay mesmerizing melodies upon them, such as in the 16-minute closer, “House Of Light.” And I certainly can’t forget drummer Phil Bartsch, whose performance throughout this release might cause you to question at times whether there’s simply one man on percussion.
“I don’t like instrumental albums,” I hear you say. I usually don’t either. There are a handful of bands that seem to pull this sort of things off though, and Dead Empires is one of them. Their refusal to stick with one style keeps me from ever becoming bored with their music. Vocals? They don’t need no stinkin’ vocals! I’m not even sure what they’d be singing about with titles such as “Abra Cadaver” and “Cosmic Space Ape” (a personal favorite) anyway. But they managed to pull off a Jamaican Reggae breakdown in between a galloping, thrash-sludge rhythm and a reverberating spaced-out guitar solo, so maybe I shouldn’t doubt their capabilities in this regard, or any other. All I know is this: Valentine’s Day is coming up, and what better gift than the gift of Dead Empire’s Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent? Diamonds are forever, but this sounds better.