It has been a bloody long time since the last record from Sludge Metal veterans Deadbird. Ten, count them, years have passed, and even though genre as a collective has been in a rut for some time, the band has seen fit to stick to their guns on new record III: The Forest Within The Tree (20 Buck Spin).
The record opens with ‘The Singularity’, a moody little ditty that, completely against type, is all acoustic plucking and melodic vocals; it really does create an intriguing atmosphere especially when you’re just expecting outright heaviness from the off. As such, it segues beautifully into ‘Luciferous Heart’ which, like the whole record, is dripping with an unerring sense of dread and foreboding. There is the familiar distorted bass, heavy mix and crashing drums so indelibly linked with the genre.
But there is more going on and I still can’t quite put my finger on it. Throughout the album, there are no real shifts in tempo or songwriting but there is a rawness and earthiness to everything Deadbird do. The only way I could compare it if I was being pushed, would be the post-metal legends Neurosis. Now before I get pelted with hate, hear me out.
Songs like the aforementioned ‘Luciferous Heart’ and ‘Heyday’ are so unrelentingly heavy that if you listen to these songs on headphones you feel like you are being held face down in whatever swamp this band has crawled out of. Again the music, when taken on its own merits, is not pushing any boundaries or doing anything “new”, but some bands are just able to add that little something extra.
Mercifully, Deadbird also knows that a record full of long drawn out sludge epics might be a turn off for a lot of people (me included), so we do get some brevity as well on ‘Alexandria’ and ’11:34’. ‘Brought Low’ offers some more diverse elements wherein the band serves us up some Sunn O))) like Drone Metal though this is just as, if not more, oppressive to the lugholes than the sludgier songs.
The ending is a slight anti-climax with the white noise stylings of ‘Bone and Ash’ feeling like just like an
outro to ‘Brought Low’ and then ‘Ending’ is just that. But I suppose when you’re looking to do more than just be heavy for heavy sake then you must find different ways of getting your message across. The melodic vocals are a real highlight and add much to proceedings, they have real Layne Staley quality to them and almost crooning, painful delivery. This mixed with the heavier vocals only makes the songs that much more impactful.
I can’t stress enough that this kind of metal, in general, is so much better when listened to on headphones where you can really get into the ambience of it all. This is especially true with this album, I discovered there was more light and shade to it that develops with each listen. A real treat is in store for anyone that chooses to give this one a whirl.