Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review - Die 985's Debut Album (Self Titled)

Gainesville.  A fairly small town in rural Georgia.  No different from many others that dot the map on the outskirts of Atlanta.  Sometimes referred to as “The Poultry Capital of the World.” AKA, the middle of goddamn nowhere. Gainesville’s chief cultural exports are WWE Champion AJ Styles and…Horrorpunk?  What?  That’s right, folks.  Whatever hellmouth opened up in Hall County is proving to be the nightmare factory feeding Atlanta’s booming horror rock community.  The same pitch black nights and blood red clay that spawned The Casket Creatures has unleashed a new infernal terror upon the earth… Die 985!

Die 985 is a hybrid beast comprised of familiar demons in a new host.  None of the parts stitched together to form this monster will be strangers to those who haunt Atlanta’s music scene.  Frontman/guitarist/demented mastermind Jamie Robertson was one of the founding members of The Casket Creatures.  Both he and thunderous skin basher Ronnie Massey also lend their talents to punk juggernauts DDC.  Derek Obscura, currently in about 193 bands, puts down the guitar he wields as a current Creature to take up the bass, proving himself the master of anything with strings.  Insert Pinocchio songs and tampon jokes here.  Kasper Chaos once handled guitar duties for the pop punk princes of the paranormal, 52 Ways. In Die 985, however, he wields a rustier, dirtier axe.  The cuts are nastier and more savage as a result.

The band’s debut self-titled album appropriately debuted on Halloween night; self-released DIY style as the punk rock gods intended.  Comprised of 9 hard hitting songs totaling a little under half an hour, it’s a precision assault on your senses.  I think, if you dear readers will indulge me, I’m going to do this review a little differently.  I say we go track by track, blow by blow, piece by piece, you get the picture.  That way we can take our time digging into the viscera and enjoy the dissection…      
1.  Sometimes They Come Back - The first time I saw the band live, I was listening to this song and  getting a little ahead of them in my mind because I knew where it  was going.  Where any standard horrorpunk song would go.  Then the chorus zagged hard and hit me with a vocal line I wasn’t expecting at all.  Vocal lines are an often overlooked ingredient, but it’s just as important for them to be catchy as it is for a bass line or guitar riff.  The vocal lines on this album are indeed catchy as the plague and often surprising.  When you can surprise a horrorpunk corpse that’s been rotting as long as I have, you’re doing it right.
2. Mr. Shrek - How many songs have you heard about Nosferatu?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Plenty.  Now how many have you heard about the guy who played him?  Exactly.  That’s what I dig.  Something new in a genre where cliché is all too often king.  Give me that fresh, undug soil, baby!
3. Cold Dark Grave - Every horrorpunk band worth their salt has a dead girlfriend song, and damn, is this one catchy or what?  This is the definition of a brainworm.  Wrath of Kahn style.
4. LycanRite - Horrorpunk is often a misnomer.  Bands in the genre often have their rotten roots planted more in metal soil or some other variety of rock.  On this song, both the riffing and the song structure remind you that half of Die 985 plays in an Oi band.  That punk fury and flavor creep in throughout the album.  Basically, your friends who are into Calabrese and The Other will dig it, but so will your friends into Rancid and The Anti-Heroes.
5. Haunting of Lisa Beth - This boo-wop number brings up my one criticism of this album.  Crooning is definitely not Jamie’s strong suit.  The more aggressive his vocals get, the better he sounds.  He is at his best on those songs where his delivery is harsher.  He just doesn’t sound in his element doing a softer style of vocals.  When he sings live, he sounds rawer.  A bit of that snarl and growl remains in his voice even on a song like this.  I wish he had performed the album more in that style.  Nevertheless, this is one you’ll want to spin your ghoul around the dance floor to.
6. Trick or Treat - This Halloween anthem, featuring Ryan Cadaver of the Casket Creatures on guest vocals and Wynn Pettitt of DDC on lead guitar, immediately went on my Halloween playlist and will remain there for years to come.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Check it out for yourself…
7. Centuries of Pain - This one is neck and neck with the first track as my favorite on the album.  You know those songs where everything just comes together?  The riffs, the melody, the structure, everything.  This is one of those.  It’s just damn well written.  The lyrics and music sync perfectly to set a strong atmosphere.  There’s a moment where the guitars back off and let just the bass and vocals carry a verse.  That part grabbed me.  I had to rewind it  and listen to it again.  A couple of times.
8. Tremble - This one, while an overall good tune, has one element that drove me nuts.  It’s something about the way the lead and backing vocals stumble over each other in the chorus that loses me.  It just sounds muddled.  Then again, there is the killer line “I am the demon.  Bitch, I’m the ghost.  Whatever boogeyman that you fear the most.”  It gets a pass for that.
9. Ichabod's Last Ride - The perfect way to wrap up the album.  It’s a full-speed-ahead thrashy rager that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Misfits’ Earth AD album.  This is less a closing track as it is one last twist of the knife.

I don’t know what kind of toxic waste or voodoo curse is infesting the water out in Gainesville, but if it keeps bringing us backwoods banshees like this, I say keep that well poisoned.  Die 985 proves on their debut album that Southern Psycho is undead and well.  Competent songwriting and musicianship that is tombstone solid and straight jacket tight combine for an impressive first strike from a band I look forward to seeing attain ever increasing heights, or depths depending on your perspective, of depravity.

You can buy the album digitally HERE, or you can do it the right way and buy a physical copy from the band HERE or at any of their shows.


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