Supergroup Dead Child Pays Homage To Heavy Metal Heroes With ‘Attack'

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The Louisville-underground supergroup Dead Child, comprised of several progenitors of the city's incestuous math-rock/post-rock scene, has ably accomplished what it set out to do. The members have made an album that honors the early-'80s English heavy metal they have always adored but never attempted. While not bringing anything new to the table, the quintet made a great metal record that recalls the genre before it sprouted dozens of branches usually dominated by screechers, screamers and shouters. This metal band features a singer, and while it may not advance the music, it is safe to say that those who miss the days of bands like Iron Maiden, Motörhead and Judas Priest wholeheartedly will welcome this album. Singer Dahm may have the fewest bands on his resume, but he may also have the most instruments. Here, he is content just to sing. He's not afraid to scream and shout and screech at times, but he's not just there to make the noise that goes into the mic. He channels Maiden's Bruce Dickinson and Judas Priest's Rob Halford. He really is a singer, and that's what you would expect from a member of Phantom Family Halo, a band that seems to ignore all genres and styles from the past 25 years. A vocalist from a band seemingly all about the '70s and before should remember when metal vocalists were still singers. The rest of the group isn't nearly so old school, featuring members of the For Carnation (guitarist Michael McMahan, bassist Todd Cook, guitarist David Pajo), Crain (Cook, drummer Tony Bailey), Papa M (Pajo, Cook, Bailey), the Shipping News (Cook), Phantom Family Halo (Dahm, McMahan) and, of course, the legendary Slint -- Pajo's groundbreaking math rock band that defied comparisons with the past and featured Cook and McMahan in the reunion lineup in 2005, after which Dead Child was conceived. Deep breath.

So the Louisville music lesson is over, but the history lesson is not. In the midst of a heavy metal revival that finds bands blending metal with indie rock (Baroness) or prog/arena rock (Mastodon) or following the alt-metal trail blazed by the Melvins (Baroness, Mastodon, ISIS, Boris, Saviours, etc., etc.), this quintet chooses to remind listeners of heavy metal's roots, blending Judas Priest's album rock riffs, Maiden's dark thoughts and the speed and energy of Motörhead's biker metal with the gloom and doom of Black Sabbath.

This set races out of the gate with the punishing "Sweet Chariot." The obvious and almost cute wordplay -- the chorus consists of the almost shouted, almost screeched, almost screamed repetition of "Swing low!" but doesn't follow through with "sweet chariot" -- is forgivable because of the relentless thrash. The band is at its most Priestly on the following two songs -- "Never Bet the Devil Your Head" and "Twitch of the Death Nerve." Following the former's unyielding churn, it almost blends right into the intro of the latter, which carries on that way for about two minutes before summoning Maiden and morphing into a multidimensional metal epic. As those songs' titles confess, the album is full of nightmare themes. But the band isn't afraid to stray from such content. While "Eye to the Brain" -- another epic -- ventures into insanity, it makes it clear that the source of the malady is the world around the madman.

Side two opens with a respite of an instrumental segue in "Armies Up Ahead," a haunting, quiet, dark cloud that serves as an intro for the Sabbath-inspired crawl of "The Coldest Hands." The adrenaline kicks in again on "Angel of the Odd" -- an almost anthemic thrash -- and the cacophonous "Wasp Riot." Album closer "Black Halo Rider" almost succumbs to melodramatic metal guitars, but the classic heavy metal thunder and lightning combo saves it. At almost eight minutes, it's the longest song on the album, thanks to the threatening churn of its second half, which serves as the album's devastating coda.

These five guys from Louisville may not be doing anything new, but they do it better than most. They've got the vision and the chops -- their previous endeavors have proven that already -- and they use 'em skillfully. (Particularly, they've got excellent timing and they know when not to play in order to give the other players' instruments room to breath, both math rock staples). And while this style doesn't follow along their post-rock and math rock pasts, they sound like they've learned from their own lessons in order to make a classic metal record that still sounds relevant today.

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