The Dead Science, Frost Giant

The Dead Science, Frost Giant

A syrupy, crooning falsetto, Sam Mickens’s voice is clearly the centerpiece of the band, and as he goes, so goes The Dead Science. This type of vocal is extremely difficult to record, and I must say that for that, Mickens sounds great. The songs are merely here as a framework for his voice; they don’t stand on their own, which is an advantage in this case, since it forces the vocal to be both instrument and messenger. The instrumentation serves to enhance and strengthen the moods of the vocals and the content of the lyrics, which seem to be primarily concerned with slitting your wrists or wanting someone else to slit theirs. The lyrics read like a Goth high-schooler’s journal, replete with stuff like “Blood in my mouth,” “Waiting for your amputation,” and “I went to sleep / Perchance to dream / I waited patiently / But nothing came to me.” Ugh.

But you know what? It works. Usually, I’m pretty down on depressed naval-gazing, but The Dead Science is definitely more than the sum of the parts. “Last Return” starts the album powerfully, with tense instrument interplay and Mickens’s wispy voice over the top, while “In The Hospital” reads like a scene from Hellraiser. “Drrrty Magneto” features a righteous upright bass part, propelling the song through an idiosyncratic chorus and strong build to the end, and it might be the highlight of the album. A surprise horn part opens “The Future, Forever,” which then devolves into loose arrhythmic near-free-form jazz. It’s probably the weakest song on the album but still interesting. “Blood Tuning” rights the ship with twisted, atonal guitar work, and the in-your-face vocal that starts “Black Stockings” is undeniable. Unfortunately, the guitar is horribly clipped, removing all of the wonderful atmospheric headroom of the vocal. “Lil Half Dead” almost feels Spanish in flavor, until you hear the overdrive boost kick on, and you’re dumped into a sick loungy swing where you’re asked to “[c]hoke to death on these unfulfilled prospects.” Fun.

Fletcher-Munson eat your heart out, but I would swear that the drummer mixed this, since for much of the album, drums are all you can hear. Although out-of-synch in parts (for example, the breakdown of “In The Hospital”), the guitar and bass nicely lock in beautifully when you can hear them, especially considering that it sounds like most of this was recorded with everyone in the room. If this is an overdub job, kudos, you fooled me, because it sounds very live. Someone plays a bottle in “Lead to Gold in the Hour of Chaos,” and there’s enough interesting instrumentation to keep the listener involved if they lose focus on the vocals. Strangely, the album sonically sounds better as it goes along — the first part’s a bit muddy and overbearing, while the rest has a luscious aural space without an over-indulgence of the reverb.

So, is it good? Yep, but not in large doses. Probably shouldn’t listen to Frost Giant after being dumped by your girlfriend and subsequently killing a bottle of Scotch, though.

(Absolutely Kosher Records -- 1412 10th Street, Berkeley, CA. 94710-1512;; The Dead Science --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Wednesday, July 26th, 2006. Filed under Reviews.

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