“The rock and roll is playing where the rock and roll will be,” Bobby Hackney sings declaratively on the song “Relief.” On Death’s new album of original material, released in April on TryAngle Records, the rock and roll is there, clear as day, ready to shake the sleep from your bones.
After being pulled from the depths of obscurity seemingly out of nowhere Death have tried to close the forty-year gap since the recording of their debut. …For the Whole World to See was recorded in 1974, essentially as a group of demos, but it didn’t find a release date until 2009. Drag City saw the potential of this haphazard proto-punk gem and allowed the world to hear it.
Spiritual – Mental – Physical and III followed on the heels of the debut’s success. They were both filled with discarded tracks recorded in the two decades after their formation. This newest offering from the Detroit rock band is titled N.E.W. as if to scream out at listeners, We just recorded these songs! This year! In 2015!
But, time is only a veil. Death’s punk integrity is still glued together and N.E.W. brings the listener right back to a raging house party in a decrepit Seventies two-story. The songs are brash, snarling and created in a fit of musty energy.
The album opens with a few heavy stabs right into your gut with “Relief.” The song is an absolute representation of what Death sound like: tight, angular riffs with dried, burnt out guitar solos and a caffeinated tempo. Complete with shouts of Detroit Rock! Detroit Rock! the mood is instantly set for a raucous stale beer good time.
“Look At Your Life” instills the start and stop punk blasts that poked holes so cunningly on their debut. The rhythm goes slack, then comes harrumphing right back into your face.
“Story Of The World” swivels on the strength of the catchy lacerating guitar work from Bobbie Duncan, who took over for late, founding member David Hackney. It shifts all over the room like they recorded it on the Costa Concordia as it grounded into the sea. Bobby Hackney pauses the rhythm to give this: “Our world is in the hands of fools / So many others besides you / They seldom give but always take / There’s only so much you can do.” Then the song disburses again.
“The Times” grinds forward with a chugging slurry of muted metal guitar. Hackney sounds like Kerry King’s looser, pot-smoking half-brother. His wide-eyed charisma keeps the album moving. He asks the big questions over a jilted, depleting riff on “Who Am I?” On “You Are What You Think” the lyrics are barked against a chortling guitar. Hackney sings with clenched jaws, saliva dripping from each tooth.
“At The Station” and “Playtime” are pumped up with positive energy, but get tiresome as they become trapped in their own format. At times during these songs, it seems, the energy is taking great effort to summon. You can hear the sweat percolate on their temples and the veins in their necks pumping blood.
God bless Death for not phoning it in and sticking with their punk rock hearts. They’re trying to cram the last few decades into this set of songs and when it’s over, they’re panting, gasping for breath on the cutting room floor.