Dead, an Australian metal group, seems dead set on keeping the listener off balance with their album “Idiots,” which flips back and forth between the sounds of sludge and punk, and sometimes manages to evoke both musical genres at once through a dark legerdemain that must be heard to be believed. Sounding remarkably like they are alive and kicking, the band hammers through nine tracks of hackle-raising savagery that haunt the ear and mind even after they end.
Part of the album’s remarkable timbre comes from the fact that there are only two people in the group, limiting the instruments to drums and bass guitar. The duo makes extraordinarily versatile use of this terse instrumental selection, while both Jace and Jem supply vocals, delivered as a snarling scream on many of the tracks.
Macabre fascination flows through many of the tracks, coming from the bizarre, menacing sound that Dead has perfected and the sludge half of the sludge/punk blend. The effect is exquisitely disturbing, and is interspersed with enough muscular bass to capture the full energy of metal and the vigor of punk as well. The sound is complex and tainted, yet never fails to flow as smoothly as the thickest and blackest oil.
Bubbling forward at times like a tsunami of gruesome ooze, and at others throbbing with a close-to-rock character, the album manages to hit one high point after another. Each song is distinctive yet filled with menacing, twisted atmosphere that makes it recognizable as an integral part of Dead’s dark craft.
Murder Hollow, for example, starts out with a chillingly evocative buzzing, droning line that climbs and swoops with a skewed sludge aesthetic. Soon it morphs to a relentless, driving percussive section whose heavy irony is underscored by vibrations so rich and ritualistic that they seem like the gongs of an infernal cathedral, beating out a measure that makes the disturbing vocals that follow even more malign.
Dead presses their own vinyls in Australia under the imprint name We Empty Rooms, but makes use of a third party company to produce discs for sale in the United States. Eolian Empire is the American company that provides Idiots to U.S. customers. The collection almost reaches the forty minute mark, and consists of seven tracks, The Carcass is Dry, Couldn’t Keep His Mouth Shut, UP!, Murder Hollow, Bed Bugs, Inherit the Wing, and Lego Men.
This album is a definite winner, not least because of its sinister moods and chameleon-like shifts between sludge and punk. Jace and Jem prove that even the tiniest band with almost no resources can produce world-class metal with the right level of inspiration.