Million Dead continue to live the dream
It's been a while coming, roughly two years since the release of their groundbreaking debut 'A Song To Ruin' (ASTR), Million Dead present their new studio album to an expectant public. Not only does it stand up to their debut, quite frankly it kicks its ass! More mature, more complex, more of everything really with a few extras thrown in for good measure.
It all starts as you might expect with 'Bread and Circuses', this sounds just like the last album, familiar territory, up beat with rambling guitar parts over the verse & a louder shouty chorus. Alas no lyric sheet with the promo but there's still evidence of political comment here & momentarily you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in for more of the same. This is not the case however, 'Holloway Prison Blues', follows & from here on in things start to change, a much more mainstream sound with the chord progressions working as you'd expect them to work, not as off the wall as 'A Song to Ruin'.
The next single is 'After the Rush Hour', it takes its lead riff from 80's indie but rips up the chorus in traditional style. A great middle section sees Frank's vocals achieve a tunefulness we haven't really heard from him before. It does remind me a little of Hundred Reasons, but that's no bad thing really.
If you were fretting that it would all be well crafted tunefulness then fear not! 'Plan B' thunders in & it's nice to see they haven't gone all out for melody, 'Plan B' is a vicious assault with Frank screaming the lyrics over the top of crazed guitars & thumping drums.
'Carthagio Est Delenda' follows with a slower verse, the guitar hanging in the background before exploding with a huge driven break before slipping back into the groove of the verse. This is a complex song with many parts, it works really well & ably demonstrates how MD have progressed as songwriters.
Next up is 'To Whom it May Concern', ah now this threw me first time round, there is a great sing along anthemic feel good moment at the end, not what you'd expect, but of course that makes it all the better for being there! The first single from the album (Living The Dream) is next & in hindsight is a good choice, I don't think it's the best song on here by any means but it has enough of the old MD styling to nicely bridge the gap & come on, it does have a stonking chorus!
'Margot Kidder' is perhaps the song that best illustrates where MD are at right now. The slower sections of the songs are much more intimate, the faster, louder parts are at times not dissimilar to their debut but on the whole are delivered with more power, often in direct contrast to the quieter moments. Still dabbling with the old cancer sticks? You might not be after 'Achillies Lung'! A thought provoking song for all the smokers out there which basically tells you how you're going to die! All courtesy of the Million Dead information service.
Bovine Spungiform Economics is a short sharp shock at 2 minutes in length, this is perhaps my favourite off the album, it's fast, it rasps, it grabs you by the neck & flings you across the room! Great driving rhythm section with a hint of US 80's hardcore guitar, this song will be something else live! 'Father My Father' delivers the biggest chorus yet & it sounds like the whole ensemble is involved here as they tell you to 'Do as we say not as we do'. Quite similar to the chorus of 'To Whom it May Concern' but this is another great track. There are certainly no fillers here & no danger of the album petering out.
At over six minutes 'Engine Driver' moves along at a steady pace (with 25bhp behind it!) & is yet another example of how Million Dead have really come into their own on this album showing a diversity that was perhaps lacking a little on ASTR. The record closes with the acoustic title track 'Harmony No Harmony' featuring Frank & a guitar alone it sounds akin to a demo & gives you chance to reflect on all that has gone before.
To really get into this record you might have to get over the fact that it's so different to ASTR first. Of course it's not completely different, Frank's vocals for example are largely the same (although lyrically it's perhaps more accessible). What it comes down to is the guitar, gone is the really dirty gutter scraping rasp of ASTR, it's replaced with tuneful, cleaner riffs but also a much more intricate & involved part making the overall sound much bigger. No doubt much of this is down to new guitarist Tom & his influence in the writing procedure and if you really wanted to nit pick you could argue that Frank doesn't spit venom over the new songs (because the tunes often don't lend themselves to it) in the way he did on much of ASTR. Ultimately though it works & MD do what they set out to & successfully move up to the next level.
Newer fans will find this album more instantly accessible than ASTR, older fans may find it takes a few listens to appreciate fully but won't be disappointed, especially if you've seen them showcase any of the new stuff live.
After a few listens I seriously think that 'Harmony No Harmony' will be held up as a classic of its time, Million Dead have moved on & still managed to end up sounding like no one else. No mean feat. Good work fellas.