As thrilled by the slickest, most polished and acolyte-heralded high-artistic gemstones folks instinctively demand we are, no consensus is less meaningful in solitude. Developing a personal ‘taste’, a discriminatory thought process based on an island of self-directed personal learning will eclipse the resonance any mind-raping societal or religious conditioning could hope to ever have. What ‘feels good and right’ may or may not have meaning, and life’s doubts will often make surety quickly fleeting, but the thrill of connecting with emotionally driven music will always be far, far more existentially filling compared to the wretched mental orgasm that the safety of prayer and/or herd mentality brings. I, along with millions of others since, felt a new and exciting sacred catharsis in discovering Neurosis‘ organic doom metal spirit-transit in the late 90’s/early 2000’s that coincided with Crowbar‘s ultimate alcoholism-fueled melodic melancholy. These were records of humanity, of self-development and grotesque honesty. These two sludge monoliths sent ripples beyond previous imagination while inspiring every extreme possibility in the genre since. Kin in witnessing this nuclear millennium event were undoubtedly then-rising peer (Rwake) and revisionist student (Deadbird) alike. Little Rock, Arkansas progressive doom/sludge metal Deadbird hit upon a happy, or at least worthy, medium of then-obvious influence with their first full-length release ‘The Head and the Heart’ (2004). A love for traditional doom metal and 90’s stoner apropos rock/metal was evident around the edges but for the new breed, life had clearly been some kind of greater hell.
And the going couldn’t have been easy once they got moving, because the band went dead silent after they recorded their bitter second album ‘Twilight Ritual’ (2008) in 2006. Several members had their fingers in Rwake‘s pie before, after, in the meantime or all along. In the interim guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schaaf was more famously instrumental in the creation of Pallbearer‘s modern day classic ‘Sorrow and Extinction’. Rather than obsess over what details contributed to their decade of nonexistence there is an ear-smacking 40 minute wallop of moody atmospheric doom to sink into on Deadbird‘s third album and this road ahead is beyond promising. A sorrowful storm of thunder and rain comes and goes as the boys reintroduce themselves; Most of it familiar, some of it surprising, and all of it transfixing.
My first impression was that ‘III: The Forest Within the Tree’ sounded incredibly close to the dry thud of the first album, but with some greater fidelity Deadbird are just a few square feet of natural reverb removed from an Albini-shined Neurosis record and warmed-up just enough to help the multitudinous vocal tracks sit atop a heavy bass presence. I mean, it could be a tape recorded with a shitty mono computer microphone from 2002 and Deadbird would still sound like Deadbird with their brand of Solstice-esque somber doom, ‘Times of Grace’-esque song structures, and a harmony boosted semblance of the Warning and (early) Pallbearer sort of melodramatic catharses. They’re not bringing a pure slog though and the stoner rocking side of Deadbird might be the most exciting type of refrain as with a Alice in Chains-meets-High on Fire dynamic thread running through the album that helps avoid pure plod.
They punch, they kick, they hug, they curse all damned existence, share a beer and hell — that’s just the first 2-3 tracks. With six members and five contributing some form of vocals Deadbird are able to convey a great variety of emotions across the detailed, extended sludge-powered doom epics (“Luciferous Heart”, “Brought Low”, “Heydey”) and these songs make up the heaving bulk of ‘III: The Forest Within the Tree’; These are the bread-and-butter of the Deadbird experience that carry consistently through their three full-lengths. The shorter tracks function as deep hooks (“Alexandria”), extremist variety (“Bone & Ash”) and atmospheric reprieve (“11:34”). No doubt the ease between the first half of the record will hook in many a listener while the second half generally relies on “Brought Low” to stay entirely afloat. My mind would absolutely drift off elsewhere for the last 7-8 minutes of the record and that is largely testament to the records languorous effects.
Left drifting off into despondency or dumbfounded meditative state no doubt the side-effects of a Deadbird session are in line with the best doom metal has to offer and the thud of sludge helps kick the crumpled self a bit deeper while they’re down. My own experience with ‘III: The Forest Within the Trees’ was personal, less a catharsis than an inspirational head-grab and face shove into whatever the subconscious hadn’t let loose. In this sense they’re giving me what Spirit Adrift did last year, and Pallbearer years previous; Deep lows and resonant highs to connect with and stretch out some forgotten atrophying part of my mind. Even if factoring in the relative lack of earnest doom metal records in the second half of 2018, Deadbird‘s return is the sort of kick I’m happy to go it alone with, and on repeat. Highly recommended.
The path within. 4.25/5.0
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