Dead In The Woods are not pining. They have passed on. This band is no more. They have ceased to be. They’ve expired and gone to meet their maker. They’re a stiff. Bereft of life, they rest in peace. If they hadn’t put out a posthumous album, they’d be pushing up the daisies. Their metabolic processes are now history. They’re off the twig. They’ve kicked the bucket, they’ve shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible! THIS IS AN EX-BAND!!
Yes, after three years of nasty psychedelic, vaguely crusty, hardcore sludge Nottingham’s Dead In The Woods split in 2011, but not before recording this posthumous album The Sign of The Sun of Man, and thank gawd they did, because it’s a vicious brute that provides a rather splendid epitaph for their time together.
Self-described as ‘His Hero is Hawkwind’, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that Dead In The Woods play it dirty and spacey. Atom-smashing drums, surging bass-throb, guitars that alternate between smashing your back doors in and swooshing through the stratosphere, slightly submerged howlingly bestial vocals and occasional bleeping, blooping, wibbling oscillations make up the rather unique sound that Dead In The Woods purvey(ed), with long-deceased California lunatics Gasp being the closest point of reference – although, to be fair, DITW don’t take things quite so far-out as those space-cadets, preferring to maintain a consistent structure to anchor their compositions down to.
Across the eight tracks that make up The Sign of The Sun of Man one thing is entirely evident – unlike many bands with, uh, ‘cosmic’ leanings, DITW do not labour their point or outstay their welcome, clearly a trait that has stuck with them from their hardcore backgrounds. The album contains three instrumentals, none of which could be described as ‘self-indulgent’ or be said to detract from the flow of the album as a whole – in fact, the pacing and programming is spot-on, if you ask me.
‘Calvaire’ rumbles into earshot following a bubbling brew of electronic oscillations and kicks in with an urgent, choppy dirty riff like ‘roided-up Stoner Rock and the submerged howling vocals of frontman Jérémie, taking things down briefly for a moment of rubbery bass, drums and clean guitar interplay, before rocketing off again, the guitars of Andy and Matt shrieking and rocking away.
The short, sharp ‘Frontier Town’ zooms past, followed by the low-key, woozy palette-cleansing of ‘Beyond The Tannhauser Gate’ – nice Blade Runner reference there – the first instrumental piece, and then into the driving space-rock of ‘The Awakening’, a track that becomes more wah-wah and oscillator-infested as it goes on. Some serious rock moves are pulled in the latter half of this track, as the rhythm section of Craig and Henry, on bass and drums respectively, throb and crash away beneath the frantic wah-soloing and wobbly swoops and swooshes.
‘Enlil Banished’, the second instrumental, rolls along on a hazy, fuzz-soaked bass groove as eastern-inflected guitars echo and ricochet around the central thrum and buzz, ‘Hellmouth’ squirms around awkwardly before kicking into a monstrous chugging rhythm, ‘Hoyerswerda’ moves from a scything pound to a Black Metal-esque hypno-blast and back again, then from a jagged whirlwind of guitars and phasing into swirling metallic chug, leaving semi-discordant instrumental space-jam ‘Twin Sundown of Zeta Reticuli’ bringing up the rear with its relentless motoring groove, snaking bass figures and tortured, screaming guitars.
….and that is, as they say, that. The fat lady has sung for Dead In The Woods and they are no more, but as swan-songs go this is a doozy.
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Scribed by: Paul Robertson