King Dead’s debut EP was recorded live in their practice/performance space, The Living Room, in January of this year. The Pennsylvanian instrumental trio consists of Steve on drums, Kev on (four string) bass, and Will on (six string) bass. Actually, judging by the photos that accompany the release, I’m pretty sure it’s an Eastwood Sidejack baritone guitar that Will is playing rather than a bass. Even if it is a bass, he’s definitely playing guitar parts on it and it is Will’s reverb-sodden strings that really dominate the record.
The slow-and-steady post-rock Americana of first track ‘Ghosts Along The Riverbank’ sets the scene beautifully for the rest of the record. There’s more than a hint of ‘Bees Made Honey…’ era Earth, but the sound is definitely King Dead’s own.
Though reverb positively drips from it, the opening of ‘As One Plows And Breaks Up The Earth, So Our Bones Have Been Scattered At The Mouth Of The Grave’ is desert dry. This is real Leone western soundtrack territory – heat haze, coiled rattlesnakes, and lens flare in every stuttering note.
‘Length Of Rope’s dynamics are broader, and it’s more progressive than the proceeding tracks. It’s not that the songwriting is superior to tracks one and two, but it’s definitely more evident. Steve and Kev are doing more than just providing tight backing here and the result is a more three-dimensional and emotional track.
The lollopy tom intro into ‘Drowning In Dust’ sounds for a moment like there’s a bit of Glam Rock on the cards, then in come Will’s reverb soaked strings and you remember where you are. Kev’s bassline however, takes the whole thing into much more psychy territory in which a bit of an organ freak-out genuinely wouldn’t go amiss. Instead, King Dead stay true to their Morricone influence and we get a whistling solo.
10 minute closer ‘God Makes A Lot Of Fucking Promises’ really pulls everything together, giving us the post-rock soundscape, the spaghetti western vibes, the drifting kaleidoscopic psych all in one package which evolves with jam-like fluidity.
The live recording of the EP has been done brilliantly – the drums especially sounding clear and distinct – and there’s certainly a well-defined sound to the record as a whole. My one bugbear is the fact that the ‘verbed-out six string doesn’t just dominate; it sounds pretty much the same throughout. This has the unfortunate effect of making the EP rather samey when listened to as a whole.
Whilst no doubt a faithful documentation of just how impressive King Dead can sound in a live situation, there’s definitely a part of me that would love to hear more refined studio versions of the tracks. Then again knee-deep in a reverb swamp is undoubtedly King Dead’s natural habitat and maybe it’s better we leave them be; raw and wild as the great green wilderness and the skull strewn desert their music invokes.
Scribed by: John Reppion