With The Dead’s self titled debut in 2015 was greeted with much acclaim. Having been the culmination of efforts from ex-Cathedral front man Lee Dorrian and former Electric Wizard members Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening, the album was a lesson in crusty doom. Now the band thankfully return with “Love From With The Dead”. Greening has moved on and in his place is ex-Bolt Thrower drummer Alex Thomas while former Cathedral member Leo Smee has taken over bass duties. Work in the studio was brief and the songs were captured in two blocks, quickly and naturally coming to life while recording was overseen by Jaime Gomez Arellano. The chemistry and organic feel of their first album seemingly carries over to this release and one helluva ride is quite likely…
The squalling, feedback induced introduction of “Isolation” gives way to some serious heaviness; rich and dark, this doesn’t have the dirt of the first album but has immediately managed to up the heavy stakes. Bassist, Leo Smee’s presence is immediate and devastating while the drumming from Alex Thomas is taut and very claustrophobic. Each beat is like a body blow and it’s this reimagined rhythm section that distinguishes itself from the first album. Bagshaw’s riffs are giant and there’s now a greater sense of space coming from the band’s sound. Heavy enough? Not yet. Lurking in the background like a viper waiting to strike, the unmistakable and menacing voice of Lee Dorrian, spits venom; despair, condemnation and anger are all compressed and delivered in that familiar accusatory tone. While there is a shift in production values there is still that fervent, immediate feel that was a band hallmark from the beginning. “Egyptian Tomb” arrives, a seething brew full of weight and atmosphere with an epic grandeur. The spoken word mid section serves to create a sinister aura before the return of churning rhythms. The band manage to capture despair and nightmarish horror lyrically and musically, especially on poignant track “Watching The Ward Go By”. The concept of mental anguish builds as the subtle hint of instruments creeps in and creates a chilling soundscape. Muffled voices echo before the sermon-like lyrics describe an internal anguish. When the unleash comes, it’s sudden and stunning; a heavily distorted, crunching riff that punches through. Terrifying and compelling in equal measure, this is a masterclass in doom delivered by the masters.
Given the pedigree of the band members, the temptation to sup from the wells of Cathedral and Electric Wizard would be all too easy. While the depth of heaviness creates that commonality, this album has the natural freshness of inspired players and is very much the engaging aspect. Each track proves to be its’ own unique exploration; the revved up doom of “Anemia”, where every chord is bled to within an inch of its life sets up the near 18 minute closer of “CV1”. Droning into life, the big, plodding riffs come into play blasted with that drum work that has pushed this album forward. Bagshaw’s riffs buzz like a hornets nest with an unrelenting intensity, while wailing drones lie in the background adding a macabre, chilling atmosphere that perfectly draws this experience to a close.
A dystopian soundscape that underlies an introspective despair, it feels personal but at the same time utterly relatable. With The Dead have crafted a work of potency and sheer weighty darkness in every sense. The sonic onslaught and lyrical bleakness have marked a new, extreme statement for the genre. This is potentially destined to become an underground classic and one of the most brutally cathartic albums of 2017. Required listening for anyone on a quest for heaviness and to stare doom in the face.
(10/10 Johnny Zed)