Following a highly praised debut album is a challenge for any band. For THE DEAD XIII especially after the release of Catacombs in 2015 which was heralded to critical acclaim from both fans and the UK rock press. This success sees the band setting their sights high with their follow-up Dark Days, released after a crowdfunding campaign to allow them full control; can this successor live up to the original?
Opening with Bloodlines, the album brews with synths before the album explodes with a thick wall of guitars, the riff here is simple yet efficient before the vocals of Kurt Blackshard kick in. The vocals are well-rounded and fitting of the bands aesthetic; providing a raw and aggressive attack whilst retaining clarity. Dark Days ramps up the synths to eleven while barraging the listening with a fast slam-based riff, switching between electronic based rhythms and guitars provides a bouncy feel to what is otherwise a luscious dark and rich track. Following this comes Last stand; launching with everything turned up to the max, the band blasts into a surprisingly atmospheric verse. The production here shines through, the drums are hard-hitting without being overly aggressive; the bass is pronounced, and the vocals cut through the warm guitars impressively. Killers carries on the punk influenced metal sound, a riff reminiscent of early PARKWAY DRIVE infused with MURDERDOLLS sets the scene here, a sprinkling of odd synths and electronic elements finish the mix to create a slightly unusual but tastefully applied creation. A guitar solo brings THE DEAD XIII into new territory; showcasing Ste Mahoney‘s obvious talent as the harmonics echo above the darkness beneath.
Bringing another sound into the scene is The Fallen, the synthesised introduction grows before a double bass drum surprise unleashes the riff in all its glory. A breakdown Is a welcome addition as the dissonance of the synths bring an eerie feel to the end of the song; closing with a welcomed orchestral piece. This minor based ending transitions into Vigil; slowing down the piece with a piano piece. Although clearly synth-based the sound here is mellow enough to allow the sense of warmth to shine through. The ambience shatters as the darkness of electronics build around this simple melody, only then is Angels allowed to rise. Arguably one of the stand out tracks from the album, this fast-paced smash brings all the elements introduced throughout the album and combines them neatly into three minutes of polished bliss. Following this is Play Hell and this easily matches Angels for highlight of the album, the guitars here are well thought out, the vocals reaching new levels in the outro as the chorus reaches a surprising key following a tasteful solo. Insomnia comes next and the horror punk feel switches gears, introducing a groove-based riff that returns in between the drum filled chorus. This is a guaranteed crowd pleasure and sure to become a fan favourite. Redemption is pulling no strings from its outset, the drop tuned guitars are a surprising welcome and bring with them a level of grunt and brute force; this tuning suit the band admirably and really showcase the unique vocal prowess of Kurt Blackshard. Curtain Call is a slow softly picked introduction; featuring the full band this instrumental prepares you for the final track: From Beyond. The technical riff ability returns with plenty of double bass drum barrages to set this apart from the rest of the album.
In essence Dark Days is everything a fan of the genre could ask for, an aggressive and fast paced attack on the listener with an impressive sound for a crowdfunded album. The production is fat and clear allowing for every element of the songs to shine through while retaining a gritty overtone that compliments the genre and THE DEAD XIII in particularly. Catacombs was a surprising success and Dark Days is deserving of the same level of fanfare, the influences and elements infused are executed to a high level that will satisfy both fans of the genre and newcomers looking to branch out.
Dark Days is out now via self-release.
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