Not Dead Yet: Dead Now is for the Living
For fans of: FFO Lists, heady riffs, time-traveling trysts, and band photos that might be a reference to Slint.
My neuroses have gotten to the point that, when I’m either on the verge of, or currently experiencing, an anxiety or panic attack, I over-invest in what feel like ominous (and all-too-obvious) signs or omens. At this particular moment, I am caught between wanting to write a sharp, focused review of Dead Now’s 2018 EP and 2020 single and the deep, irrational fear that “Dead Now” is going to describe me in a matter of moments. Here’s hoping that writing this review will be an antidote to the floating dread that has accompanied me on a sleepless October night.
Cruising the Atlanta tag on bandcamp, an activity that rarely bears fruit, I, with an almost immediacy bordering on prophetic, found Dead Now’s recent single “Slow Beam,” released in late September of this year.
Featuring Andrew Elstner (Riddle of Steel, ex-Torche) and the two lunatics comprising the uncompromising Day Old Man, Bobby Theberge and Derek Schulz, Dead Now is a vibrant composite of the band members’ other projects and some contemporary touchpoints. It feels like a disservice to simply list other bands and say, “That’s what this sounds like!” but it wouldn’t be entirely off-base with Dead Now. On both “Slow Beam” and the 2018 self-titled EP, Dead Now synthesizes each member’s particular history and aesthetic, offering a power-pop metal slate of thundering tracks replete with blotter-sheet righteousness that fans of the aforementioned bands and other acts such as Big Business, Indian Handcrafts, and Dove will find immensely appealing.
“Slow Beam” sounds the most like a post-duo Big Business and a more trudging Riddle of Steel. Elstner’s vocals are pulled back a bit from the more effusive and delightfully strained heights of his days at Riddle of Steel’s helm, while the rhythm section of Theberge and Schulz provides ample movement and firm foundation for Elstner to craft riffs that move fluidly and kaleidoscopically through down-tuned doom and bouncier, more playful fretwork. It’s not as rooted in the rock grandeur of Riddle of Steel’s Got This Feelin’ (2005), but Elstner is still a deft guitarist with some Cheap Tricks up his sleeves.
Dead Now’s 5-track 2018 EP is a juicier offering and showcases the band’s knack for bringing their various other projects together. While none of the tracks come close to the sprawling stoner-doom spaceouts of Day Old Man, they’re a bit unhinged and off-kilter, only reined in by Elstner’s affinity for power trio dynamics. Each of the tracks on Dead Now rocks and rolls, blisters and burns, chills and kicks back. Warped bass riffs cycle and recycle and introduce an almost vertiginous feeling into relatively forward-moving romps. Elstner, too, has learned something from the Steve Brooks School of Riff Bombing, bringing a welcome and impactful heaviness to each song, even going so far as to inject “Bird Leaf” with a classic Brooksian harmonics slide.
But you can also hear in Dead Now what made Elstner such a nice fit for Torche. Though Elstner’s tenure with Torche came during what many fans consider to be the band’s down years, I believe he fit seamlessly with a band moving out of its poppiest phase and into a more balanced approach. Harmonicraft, in particular, takes the punky popness of Songs for Singles and churns it through the stormier and moodier Meanderthal and In Return. It’s an album I truly, thoroughly enjoy, particularly its b-side “Harmonislaught,” one of the heaviest and most exciting songs in Torche’s catalogue. Elstner’s time in Torche also includes Restarter, which, while uneven, has some of Torche’s best tracks that I always hope to hear when I see them live. The fingerprints of these albums are all over Dead Now.
“Powershapes,” my favourite of the six Dead Now cuts, reaches back to ’90s Floor and their smattering of hard-to-find split 7″s, with a crunching, stuttering riff anchoring a track that also finds time for some Clutch-esque guitar work that will send fans back to the heady days of Clutch and The Elephant Riders. After opening out into a Riff ov the Week winner around the 3:10 mark, “Powershapes” then devolves into a hallucinogenic mind-melter. If that sounds like too much, it isn’t, as the band precision and keen focus keeps everything from spilling out of its confines. You’re whirling and reeling and nodding and bobbing, but you’re never not having a helluva time.
“Motorekt,” the EP’s closer, intertwines an homage to our desert forebears Kyuss with Torche’s familiar brand of thunder-pop, something that could be said of the opening tracks “Brunette” and “Ritchie Blackmourning,” as well. If you couldn’t tell from the song title, Dead Now is also a band, like Riddle of Steel, with deep roots in the bluesy, proggy richness of Deep Purple. This sense of ’70s and ’80s galactic hard-rock alloys gorgeously with the band’s tone-droned stoner rock.
List Season is nigh, and I’m writing about an album from the distant year of 2018, so let us bring our time together to an end. Brevity is the whole of “Sit!”—an injunction to which I can only add “…and listen!” You’ll be glad you did. Afterwards, you can get back to agonizing over your 2020 End of Year Lists. I’ll be right there with you, hoping that Dead Now has something else in store for 2020 that I can include.
You can buyboth “Slow Beam” and Dead Now
on Dead Now’s bandcamp or via Brutal Panda Records.
Order a cassette, like I did, and enjoy the fuzz.
Hey, where’d all the dread go?