Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Better Death's "Day of the Death"

Dallas-based experimental heavy rockers The Better Death took their name from a Leonardo da Vinci quote ("a life well spent brings happy death"). They got together in 2006 and released a CD in 2009, but since early 2011, their drummer Danny Handler has been battling an inflammatory bowel disease, resulting in a lengthy hiatus from the stage. They haven't been entirely idle, however, recording an album which they just took the novel step of releasing on a USB Flash drive, complete with artwork, lyrics, computer wallpaper, and a video. In this way, perhaps, the Romance of the Artifact survives in the era of the cloud.

Day of the Death is a brief (the six tracks total 20 minutes) but impactful communique, replete with the band's signature strengths: singer Sean Dailey's passionate, powerful projection, the pugnacious pummeling of drummer Handler and bassist Ricky Wolking, and guitarist Ed McMahon, who personally awards a giant prize of heavy rifferama and Tom Morello-esque noise on every track. (Ed brought an experimental edge to Reggie Rueffer's too-smart-for-their-own-good pop songs in the Hochimen, and has also jammed with shadowy jazz legend Ronald Shannon Jackson.)

The music has the feel of a sci-fi epic (think Styx or Rush), an impression that's not borne out by a perusal of the lyrics, which are redolent of decadence and ennui that might only exist in the narrator's imagination ("We'll make a smoke signal from incense and leaves / Lay your head down and fall asleep to my CDs"). The buzz track "E.G.G. (Everybody Get Gay)" is reliant on a usage that, in context, hits the same way as "retarded" (um, ain't no more "last acceptable prejudices" out here, last time I looked), although the line "'Cause it's hipster time and I'm so L.A." indicates ironic intent. No matter; Day of the Death succeeds on pure sonics, its only non-snazz element being its abbreviated length.

Here's hoping Handler continues on the mend and The Better Death are able to take it back to the stage soon.


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