Oh dear. Oh deary me.
Just what has happened to our beloved Death By Stereo? I guess it's safe to say that when their brilliantly titled debut album 'If Looks Could Kill I'd Watch You Die' emerged in 1999 no one quite knew what to do with these So-Cal punx. After all, here was a band melding the menacing speed of punk rock with the virtuosic fluidity of metal like literally no one before them. Such a juxtaposition of glossy/razor-laced melodies would proliferate through the emo-explosion and, in truth, doubts surrounded whether vocalist Efrem Schultz would himself capitalise on his remarkably strong tones; something that was easily dismissed by this writer on the strength of their intense, high-octane performance at the LA _Warped Tour _in 2002 (stood next to Mr Brett no less!).
But, how times have changed. With ostensible pressure from management, who've no doubt seen old tour pals Avenged Sevenfold reap the rewards of such a lucrative formula, this it seems is their big foot forward, out of the mid-level ranks of Epitaph and...
*Cut to management board meeting*
Steven Fry-type Director:"...straight to the forefront of hardcore metal in 2005!"
Board members: "Hear hear!"
Director: "And to get there, we need to make some changes. You there - get me the producers behind Avenged Sevenfold's new album."
Management assistant 1: "Fred Archambault and Bruce MacFarlane?"
Director: "That's them. And while you're at it, call up M Shadows and get him to sing on a couple of tracks." [to his PA] "Metal kids love that sort of thing."
Management assistant 1: "Gotcha. But Paul their bassist is not gonna like it. He's produced all their records so far and they've turned out near faultless."
Director: "If he argues, sack him. If Efrem argues, shave off his mohawk. We cannot be held back by petty little disputes. Next, you there, get Efrem a vocal coach. If he sings he's gotta sing, if he screams he's gotta roar - none of this in-between nonsense."
Management assistant 2: "No problemo!"
Director: "You. I want their album cover to out-metal 'City of Evil'. I'm talking skulls, fire, death, destruction..."
Management assistant 3: "Already on the case sir!"
Director: "Marvellous. All we need now is a heavy metal ballad, complete with a soaring solo fit for the Gods, then I can head to the golf course."
Management assistant 4: "Consider it written sir."
Director: "Marvellous. Bloody marvellous. Sylvia, grab my club and balls."
Such a scenario may not be too far from the truth. Indeed, gone is talented bassist / producer Paul Miner, along with Efrem's treasured ‘hawk, and their splintered punk rock edge does seem compromised with a heavyweight, commercially viable gleam. Every effort, it seems, has been made to turn DBS into pristine metal warriors from the broadended Queen-like vocal histrionics and Van Halen-tormenting solos in 'Forget Regret' right down to the simplistic Casio-keyboard level rock drumming of 'Binge / Purge'that makes Lars Ulrich *look like *Brann Dailor.
Full-on guttural roars akin to *Sepultura *taunt old skool DBS fans in the aptly named 'Middle Fingers' whereas Efrem's distinctive melodic grime seems to have morphed into fully saturated crooning in their very first ballad 'Forever And A Day', not only making us reach for a lighter to hold aloft, but to physically use it to burn this album to a cinder.
For Death For Life is a sickeningly over-produced, meticulously engineered cash-raking device that confidently neglects their underground appeal under the illusion that the grass is greener on the other side. Those who prefer something a little less greener, less artificial and more _organic _would do best to stay away.
2Mat Hocking's Score