Combining the talents of former members of doom metal giants Cathedral and Electric Wizard was always going to be a tantalising prospect. When Lee Dorrian, Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening convened a year ago to create the band With The Dead, the self-titled album they have gone on to craft almost redefines heavy. Let’s not mince words, this is an absolute beast of an album.
With its’ six tracks clocking in at around 40 minutes, this is a very focussed and brutal statement of intent. Not for the faint of heart, it’s not often something so exhilarating completely bludgeons its way into you.
Opening with “Crown Of Burning Stars”, the eerie, creeping introduction gives way to lurching riffs that snap you back and forth like a rag doll. Then that voice arrives -Dorrian has lost none of the bile and venom, screaming through bone shaking guitar work.
With a little more pace, “The Cross” is more like a soundtrack to a waking nightmare. There is a sense of fear and desperation that continues to build. Only Lee Dorrian could deliver this kind of sermon. Mark Greening’s drumming is furious underpinning those big wide riffs from Tim Bagshaw that send shockwaves through your system.
The doleful ambience of Nephthys lumbers along as the vocals summon the ancient Egyptian goddess of the dead. These massive walls of sound feel as if they could travel through the ages and you become aware of the talent on offer and why these three gentlemen are revered in the heavy metal community.
“I can’t help you. You see, I’m dead. Aren’t you?” Holy shit – “Living With The Dead” is a suffocating, unrelenting and unforgiving track. In some ways, this track captures the atmosphere of the entire album and leads brilliantly into its’ second half.
The sludge and crust of “I Am Your Virus” is smothering. The foot comes off the accelerator midway through and you’re left breathless before the second coming crushes what’s left of your senses. At every turn, you ask “can this get any heavier?” The answer is a resounding “yes.”
The nightmare is complete with “Screams From My Grave.” The funereal drum intro before the fuzzed out deathly slow guitars drag the condemned, desperate vocals into the ground. There is a droning finality that provides a fitting end to this journey.
The sound throughout is raw and unbridled capturing the feeling of freedom that these three had to create such a work of intense ferocity. While the obvious nods to the members’ pasts are evident, “With The Dead” definitely has its own individuality and the freshness of a new collaboration.
Doom’s masters deliver a stunning lesson in brutality with this debut cut. This is essential listening.
(9/10 Johnny Zed)