Review: Dead Lay Waiting – Almost Heaven

The Dead Lay Waiting are currently riding a wave of impressive press and a whole big batch of Best New this and that awards. Problem is, that can lead to the death of a band. Being the best new thing, even in the UK, isn’t always the greatest template for long-term success. May I remind you about The Strokes or any other number of bands that didn’t live up to the hype? So are The Dead Lay Waiting simply the bastard children of the record industry hype machine or is there something there. To answer that, let’s dig out their upcoming sophomore release Almost Heaven.

Having already seen release in the UK, Almost Heaven is the focused weapon The Dead Lay Waiting will use to conquer the states in 2012. So what are they all about? Well, it’s fast, groovy and dances back and forth between death metal and metalcore. If it makes any sense, The Dead Lay Waiting is accessibly brutal. Musically you could stick the band up against the more popular metalcore bands and they’d win the crowd over, if you can ignore their preened and sculpted look then their music would amp up any rigid bunch of metal purists. Here’s where it really gets interesting. I’d compare The Dead Lay Waiting to early Metallica, or even the Foo Fighters. I know what you’re thinking, how can you do that you ignorant bastard?

I make that comparison simply on the spirit of Almost Heaven. Clearly The Dead Lay Waiting aren’t as prolific yet and haven’t proved anything like that kind of talent but they have taken a uniquely polarizing genre and made it more accessible without sacrificing songwriting. Metallica did it with thrash metal, Foo Fighters did it with alternative music and The Dead Lay Waiting is pushing in that direction with metalcore. Imagine a time when metalcore wasn’t a boring and tepid genre pushing style over substance. If that day comes folks will look back and point to The Dead Lay Waiting and Almost Heaven.

Musically the band lays down the basics and then plays off of them. “This Day Will Be Your Last” kicks the album off with a thrash/metalcore thunder riff. Most bands in the genre would just stay on this course, but The Dead Lay Waiting decides to throw in some curve balls. Half measure blast beats, some interesting percussion work over a noisy riff and then a return to the groove.

“Take Me Away” is the first serious proof that the band could be into changing the game. Riding a blast beat, “Take Me Away” stops on a dime and turns into gated guitar, staccato beat jamboree. Playing with the time of the song keeps you off balance, structurally it seems like the whole thing is resting on the tip of a pin and could topple over at any time. That kind of tension is rare in this genre. As is some of the noisier elements of the song that flash through the middle.

What really gives The Dead Lay Waiting their edge is the drummer. Instead of resting on hyperactive double bass and endless fills the drums on Almost Heaven play a strong part in the music. If the riff is playing in one time, the drums will counter act it. There’s no fear of a simple groove or a powerful blast beat either. On “Always Ask Why” the drums are playing counter everything else. It gives the song a disturbing sway, which makes it infinitely more interesting. With the exception of some occasional stumbles into formula the percussive element in Almost Heaven really helps elevate the record.

If I had any advice for The Dead Lay Waiting it would be to concentrate on what them unique. Leave the genre trappings alone and expand on the weird time signatures, the darker riffs and harsher vocals. I would also say to drop the epic harmonies. It doesn’t make the music more emotional or deeper, just formulaic. Almost Heaven is a strong second album from a band that has a seriously bright future ahead of them as long as they can continue to grow past their genre.



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