From the way Dead Man's Root sounds, it might come as a surprise they hail from dreary old London, England. Playing a brand of gritty, raw, and aggressive hard rock that they've dubbed "Caveman Rock 'n Roll Death Blues," it sounds like the band would be a lock to have spawned in a swamp somewhere in rural America; the much-vaulted NOLA scene perhaps? Regardless, this untitled 2005 demo swaggers and sways with gritty rawk that sounds like grunge that flourished rather than died; catchy and hook-laden, the band still maintains pummeling force and ballsy beatdowns. In my mind this is the kind of music a grunge-era spawned by the Melvins would have led to (instead of Nirvana) and I'd be lying if something about it didn't remind me a tad of Alice in Chains (though I'm not entirely sure what it is, perhaps the fact I've been listening to them a lot lately?).
Despite my rambling, the point here is that this 12 minute demo is actually pretty strong; it seems like I find myself humming the songs pretty often, and when I'm actually listening to the blasted thing, I want to press repeat over and over.
To wit, "Devils and Dust" is a good reason to explain why. Slinking in on a snaking bass line courtesy of Avi Lugassy, the song next kicks into power-drive with the subtle but pulsing drumming of Alex De La Cour, while brother Ben De La Cour blasts out gravelly riffs and muddy vocals; the man likes to alternate between caustic yelps and mournful, howling swoons, and it is a potent combo. To top it off, the song closes with a punishing breakdown (yep, a hardcore-style breakdown, but played with gut-stomping riffs instead) and one last rendition of that soaring chorus.
"The Ashes" is my favorite song; glimmering, shiny space rawk notes trade sonic barbs with buckshot riffs, and Alex De La Cour's drumming provides a frantic heartbeat of bass taps that really stands out. The icing on the cake is a bona-fide rock solo, which somehow leads up into yet another massive breakdown. It's kinda like that cake I mentioned earlier; sweet and sugary until you bite that freaking rock your buddy baked in as a joke.
Closer "Bonelip" is an upbeat fist-pumper; the song maintains a rocking, good-time vibe to it that separates it from the pack so to speak. As the last moments of the song close with one last guitar solo and a rousing sing-along or two, it's clear these guys have got potential.
Dead Man's Root comes highly recommended by this writer; in this day-and-age, you almost can see visible divides between catchy, castrated pop-rock and unflinchingly brutal hard-rock. To me, this makes little sense as even as recently as half a decade ago, hard rock bands on the radio were still catchy AND heavy. This is beside the point, and I'll get off my soapbox. The point really is that if you like your rock to be heavy but inspirational, catchy but cathartic, Dead Man's Root just might be your blokes. As Ben yowls on "The Ashes," "I know what I want." I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the same; more of this music from this band. Three-and-a-half stars.
1. Devils and Dust
2. The Ashes