(the band is one of the many artists playing this coming weekend at Voodoo Fest in New Orleans)
I can remember the moment I first heard “You Know You’re Right,” the long awaited ‘lost’ Nirvana song that showed up on the box set released a number of years back. As I tracked through to hear this missing gem, I leaned back and took it in and then said: ‘Wow. So that’s where nu-metal came from.’ It was a sobering realization that the empowering grunge of my youth had spawned everything I hated on commercial radio. It left me despondent. Were good, unique bands actually destined to create nothing but feeble, hideous descendants? Were Cain’s offspring truly cursed?
The problem is that I wasn’t looking down the right branch of the family tree. On the diagonal side of the country from the grunge movement, in my very own backyard of the South, bands that were exploring the mix of Sabbath-sludge tempo and a mix of dirty, fierce blues were coming around. The end result, after coming through bands like Alabama’s Verbena, is Athens-by-way-of-Augusta, Georgia’s Dead Confederate.
Their first LP, Wrecking Ball, is the true heir to the legacy of the early 90s rock that so changed the face of commercial music. Vocalist Hardy Morris’ yowling, desperate singing is akin to the late Cobain’s, not always so much in style, and certainly not in cryptic, obscure lyrics, but more in the impassioned emotions it evokes. From the opening howl of “Heavy Petting,” Morris positions the dense, psychedelic-tinged swirl of Dead Confederate’s rock as a wave of mutilation on which his vocals surge.
The album is a solid piece of work from a band that has defined itself a fairly distinct sound early in its career. “The Rat,” a song revisited from their self-titled EP from earlier this year, uses the quiet-loud-quiet construct to good affect across its running time. “Goner,” one of only two songs to clock in in the three-minute range (all others are 4:57 or longer), condenses the longer form of their typical songwriting to a more quickly digestible chunk and ends up being one of the album’s best songs.
Not that brevity is a virtue necessarily. As the album heads toward its finish, the album’s two longest tracks, the seven-minute “The News Underneath” and the twelve-minute “Flesh Colored Canvas,” explore the aforementioned psychedelic tinge with a Floyd-ish feel and serve nearly as one piece, the tracks butting head to tail and sharing musical themes, coming close to creating one nearly 20 minute song. What can be clunky and boring, very easily, in the hands of less interesting musicians, is here made worthy.
Wrecking Ball is not a done evolutionary deal. It’s the snapshot of a band with a distinct and defined purpose, letting its voice echo in the empty room of its predecessor’s legacy before walking out the door. words/ j. neas
MP3: Dead Confederate :: Heavy Petting
MP3: Dead Confederate :: Goner
Amazon: Dead Confederate – Wrecking Ball