CD Review: With The Dead – With The Dead

CD Review: With The Dead – With The Dead
Rise Above Records
All Access Rating: A-

With The Dead - S/T 2015
Don't let the crosses and pastoral garb fool you. The members of eerie, occultist doom-metal misanthropes With The Dead are not exactly a pious lot.

Electric Wizard castoffs Tim Bagshaw (guitarist/bassist) and Mark Greening (drummer) make up two-thirds of With The Dead, joining Cathedral's Lee Dorrian, and once upon a time, as legend has it, the two were arrested for absconding with a crucifix off a church's roof, among other transgressions. Not surprisingly then, the harrowing, disorienting journey deep into the dark unknown that is the trio's punishingly brutal and ominously crusty self-titled debut LP, released by Dorrian's Rise Above Records, certainly does disturb the peace in ways that seem unnatural and extraordinary.

Burrowing down into the horrifically gnarly bowels of the sepulchral With The Dead is not advisable for the faint of heart. The further one goes the more hallucinatory the effects, Dorrian's hoary vocals a distant, echo-laden evil always fearful of being buried alive by monstrously heavy riffing crackling with grimy distortion on "Nephthys" and "Crown of Burning Stars." Occasional bridges of clarity and sinister, spare acoustic designs appear in thick, slow-turning dirges "Living With the Dead" and "I Am Your Virus," as With The Dead haunts wide swaths of ruinous, bombed-out sonic devastation and gets lost in the churning blackness and awful dread of "Screams From My Own Grave." Take a flashlight with you upon entering With The Dead and make sure the batteries are charged.

In danger of succumbing to shapeless monotony, as each song seems more turgid than the last, With The Dead almost grinds to a halt by the end, and yet, the album beckons time and time again, revealing more layers than a cursory listen provides. Each breathtaking track seems to be a universe unto itself, requiring deep exploration, even as mammoth implosions cause a series of massive sonic cave-ins from which there is no escape. Much has been made of the fractious relations between Rise Above Records and the Electric Wizard camp, but with this effort, it's clear that With The Dead are moving on to the next plateau. Maybe they'll settle their differences in the afterlife.
– Peter Lindblad

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