Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Better Death

What happens when sophisto musos go heavy? One possible answer: The Better Death. These four coalesced in 2006 with a mind toward creating a technically challenging rock music. Bassist Ricky Wolking and drummer Danny Handler play complex, ever-shifting time signatures with steely, virtuosic precision, while guitarist Ed McMahon (Ten Hands, Hochimen) alternately jangles, blazes, and skronks, and over-the-top vocalist Sean Dailey's contributions run the full gamut from gutteral snarls to operatic wails. Their proximate models include Mars Volta, Faith No More, Rage Against the Machine, King Crimson -- or maybe just Yes with balls.

Their self-titled CD bursts out of the gate at a gallop with the "Flight of the Bumble Bee"-like flurry of notes that opens "Message To Your Rival." When these guys namecheck Bach, Chopin, and Paganini, they mean it; this is the smartest take on Nu Metal that you'll ever hear. "Versus" alternates ethereal intervals with passages of pounding passion, over which Dailey howls emotively, before giving way to a loping urban beat that segues smoothly into the celestial-sounding chords of "Willow." After the opening atmospherics, that tune locks into a mutated funk groove worthy of '80s Crimson. "Devoted Like Flies" rages with math-y rigor, with McMahon exploring the same fields of noisy atonality as Dr. Morello. The tour de force here is the six-minute-plus "La Muerto Mejor," which winds its way through several shifts of mood and motif, a proggy concerto of existential angst.

The Better Death's achievement on this short (24 minutes) debut disc is considerable. One can't help but wonder, though, whether they're not being too clever for their intended audience. Film, as they say, at 11.


Blogger Treehouse-Dweller said...

I must admit- in the case of metal (or even Nu Metal), I'm prone to say "tanks but no tanks." However, this review makes me want to check these guys out!

2:24 PM  

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