posted on 4/2008 By:
Pssst! C'mere, I have a little secret...
Not all hippie music is bad.
No, I don't own any Grateful Dead albums, and I'd rather eat a box full of rotted tacks than subject my ears to Phish (or many of the other popular "jam bands"), but, as is often the case with any particular genre, there are some true gems to be discovered once you dive well-below the mainstream.
Now, take a look at the album cover for Euphoria over there. That's right, you're seeing a silhouette of dandelion fuzz being gently blown away by a breeze. As you can likely gather, that doesn't exactly equate to HEAVY. Nope, no amount of umlauts could make Dead Man metal, but their brand of folky/hippie retro-rock is put together so smartly, I'd go so far as to call this record fucking brilliant; certainly my current non-metal favorite of 2008, hands down.
And what the hell's in Sweden's water that's causing all these retro-rock outfits to crop up so healthily? Witchcraft, Burning Saviours and Graveyard: all Swedish bands that have made a nice little name for themselves amongst open-minded metal fans and those with a strong interest in the roots of heavy rock and proto-doom material. But to simply call Dead Man a retro-rock band is honestly not that accurate. Yes, there are plenty of moments where you'll hear that warm, familiar proto-doom guitar tone in the riffing and soloing (hell, 4:15 into "Rest In Peace" is mapped directly from olden Black Sabbath blueprints), but Dead Man pull a wealth of intriguing cards from their sleeve to really help stamp a unique footprint in this now well-traveled path; and that footprint is swirled and surrounded by a mood that's chiefly breezy and blithe, thanks to Dead Man's copious use of feel-good folk. Honestly, what's made a band like the Grateful Dead so unappealing to me over the years (apart from the aggravating freeloader fans tripping balls and freeloving their way to the unemployment line) has a lot to do with the fact that much of their feel-good folk seems to be draped over tunes that could just as easily find themselves on a friggin' children's record. Dead Man, on the other hand, take that jaunty, sunny folk and build it around a structure that's more focused towards psych/prog/doom-rock, which makes the formula work much better for me, and gives Dead Man a pretty unique sound when compared to their Swedish peers.
Euphoria isn't quite all throwback airy good times, however. Some of these tunes take a more modern approach to the breezy core. Album opener, "Today", and the upbeat "I Must Be Blind" have an interesting Beck-like flavor to their approach, and "Light Vast Corridors" also sports a fresh indie-ish feel to further mix things up. In addition, Dead Man infuse healthy measures of darkness into the heart of a few songs, which is nicely amplified by their generous use of traditional fiddle and flute: the excellent "Footsteps", the wicked 9-minute opus, "The Wheel", and the ever-bending and winding "Rest In Piece", for example. But again, the true selling point of the record is its insistence on turning listeners' frowns upside-down; a welcome change for those of us who spend a wealth of our time listening to extreme music of a more negative vibe.
So, yeah, a perfect score, huh? I know our regular readers have seen a few trip-6's in these parts recently, but truth is, I haven't dropped one since early last year, so ease back on firing those torches. Plus, I honestly feel it's warranted with this release; Euphoria will be an essential part of my rotation as the carefree days of summer approach. Every tune presented is strong enough to stand on its own, and the production is clear enough to pick out a wealth of enjoyable nuances as this fine work slowly begins to set root in your marrow. Be careful, though, your girlfriend/wife/significant other might begin to realize there's a softer side to you if you crank this album as much as I have the last couple weeks. I admit I'm pretty addicted. BUT, I can assure you, I will still never -- even after 10,000 years and 10,000 beers -- be caught sporting sandals of any sort and kicking a hacky sack around with my "bro's" in a park. That shit's strictly for the hippies. Euphoria, on the other hand, is something we can definitely agree on. It ain't metal, but I highly recommend it.
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