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Sunday, December 5, 2010

CD Review: The Divine Baze Orchestra - Dead But Dreaming

As seen on The Klepto's Guide:

With Dead But Dreaming, The Divine Baze Orchestra picks up where their last album, Once We Were Born..., left off. It follows the same spaced-out, psychedelia trippy-rock that made their debut so successful. Most of the songs are pretty long (not Rush long, but you get the idea) and are minimalist on music and vocals - at least with having both at the same time. The songs are filled with sound and vocals that lead the listener to believe that there is a hidden meaning behind them, but for the most part, when the guitar and bass are playing their dueling tunes, the singer seems to be elsewhere. And when he does sing, there is usually only a simple drum rhythm (for the song "Origins" it sounds like a man hammering in a railway spike) or a repeating, droning guitar in the background. Very rarely are all of the parts in music harmony.

As some of you know, this type of stoner metal isn't my favorite, as I tend to enjoy more straight-forward stoner themes. I tend to like my progressive metal to have the far-out themes, while my stoner I like rocking. Although, for The Divine Baze Orchestra it seems to work well, as their music is more psychedelia then stoner. Keyboards, walking bass lines, and groovy drums all seem to belay a retro-70s theme more then anything else. I could see Blue Cheer or Iron Butterfly reforming and putting out a record of this caliber.
While it is a solid album, it is not an instant-classic, some of the songs tend to drag a bit, and are very different musical quality. "Flow/Unity" sounds like something you'd hear on a cheesy 60s game show, or dating game. I could imagine my grand mother waltz (although it isn't a waltz beat, I just don't know any other old dance steps) to this song fairly simply. It's like jazz mixed with an easy listening song. It's not bad - actually it's pretty good overall - it's just a stark contrast to the majority of the album, and the genre as a whole.

To paint a better picture of this contrast between songs, the following track, "What Mustn't Be Spoken," dives straight into doom metal - both in music and vocals. It is one of the heaviest off of the album, and one of the best. The guitars are droning the entire track, with the drums playing continual sixteenth-note rhythm on the high-hat, rotating around the kit for emphasis. The vocals become semi-Gothic, and you can just feel the impending doom the speaker is trying to convey. And then at the five-minute mark, after building up to this pinnacle of sound and violence... it fades out and back into a psychedelic, happy-go-lucky rhythm and key - sounding more akin to a child's TV show then a heavy metal song. This band is nothing but contrasting ideals - acid may be a contributing figure to the ending equation. I'd believe it.

This weird mesh or trippy and heavy continues throughout the rest of album, for some songs it works (read above) but for others it takes away. "The Cellar" would be another kick-ass song, if not for the middle minute or two bit where it seems like a teacher or preacher or someone scolding some children while 'the Devil' (only because I don't have a better explanation for it) chants evil thoughts in the background - It is weird.

For Dead But Dreaming, The Divine Baze Orchestra raises the bar for psychedelic music, a much better representation then their first album, but can't fully pull off these amazing sounds with the stark contrasts between, and within, the songs. And I don't know what was up with "The Cellar," but that shit was nuts. I'll pick up their next album with anticipation, and I hope they continue evolving their psychedelic style, but stray away from the acid-induced rock.

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