Dead to a Dying World seeking glimmers of hope, meaning amid Apocalypse on stunning ‘Litany’

Photo by Kathleen Kennedy

Photo by Kathleen Kennedy

The world is not a very easy place in which to live. Shit, the United States can be the most frustrating, maddening, just-give-up plane of existence anywhere, despite our endless, somewhat hollow boasts about it being the greatest country in the world. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t want to place my head down and end up somewhere more peaceful and accepting, later realizing that would probably be somewhere not of this planet.

So we carry on, and despite the daily reminders of just how fucked we are in this existence, it’s not like life doesn’t also have its wonderful moments that align heart, mind, and spirit. You just have to find a sense of calm and understanding for yourself, a proverbial silver lining in a blackened sky that seems to offer no sense of hope. That is something that’s hit me pretty hard the past couple of weeks considering what’s been in the news as well as the comic coincidence that I had been listening pretty frequently to “Litany,” the second record from Texas-based septet Dead to a Dying World. The band’s new record, a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled debut, is comprised of six movements that struggle to find that positivity and hope in the middle of a dark sea in which it feels like the only thing surrounding is the lack of humanity and the death of compassion. They obviously feel this too, but instead of wallowing and dying in it, they push through and create a triumphant, Western-dusted dose of doom that feels expansive, wonderfully creative, and completely defiant of giving into hopelessness. It’s a perfect soundtrack for what I’d been feeling lately and never once failed to lift my spirit.

DTADW coverAnyone familiar with this band knows that a journey with them is not a simple one. There are many layers and twists and turns that keep you awake and alert. “Litany” is a record that, while quite lengthy, should be experienced beginning to end with no breather. It sweeps you up and lets you feel the hellish lows followed by the triumphant highs. The band—vocalists Mike Yeager (ex-Scavenger) and Heidi Moore (formerly of Ecocide), guitarists Sean Mehl and Greg Prickett, bassist James Magruder (ex-Embolization), viola player Eva Vonne (also of Sabbath Assembly), and drummer Cyrus Meyers (formerly of The Fear of the Sun)—weave amazing Apocalyptic tapestries on this record, their sound fairly indescribable but should appeal to fans of bands as varied as Across Tundras, ISIS, Murder By Death, and Neurosis. This feels like dusty doom theater, music that crushes and thrashes but also provides a nighttime desert-laced vibe, where you stare at the night sky wondering where you must go next just in order to survive mentally. This record is so gigantic, in fact, that three labels are dealing this thing, with Gilead Media, Tofu Carnage, and Alerta Antifascista all bringing this thing into the world.

“The Hunt Eternal” opens the record, a 16:44 journey that begins with noise and strings before it bursts. Harsh shrieks rain down, bringing the abrasion along with them, before calm settles and clean singing emerges. Obviously with a song this long, there are plenty of tempo changes, going from loud to soft, and moments even feel a little woodsy. Moore’s vocals then take over, as the serenity continues but a storm is on the horizon, and once it strikes, it brings energy and fury, with monstrous vocals poking at your raw wounds. A fog then rises, dark rumbling situates underground, and the strings drop a curtain over everything. “Cicatrix” has a quiet, murky opening, with group singing blending, and darkness settles in that’s both ghostly and theatrical. The song also has that aforementioned Western feel, making it seem like you’re on a chilly nighttime walk all alone. “Eventide” goes 14:23, and it trickles in slowly with strings and a moderate pace. The vocals then poke, feeling barked and brawny, as an Americana-style melody takes over. The song is sweeping and gripping, with the tale being roared, and the music causing the earth to quake. The track eventually works its way out of stormy waters, bouncing calmly and floating off into the darkness.

“Beneath the Loam” is the second-longest cut at 16:32, and light guitar and strings begin to soak the ground. The song bolts open, as every element rages with fire and the vocals feel like they’re pounding their way through your chest. Later, the track delves close to black metal terrain, and riffs surge in a flurry, coating you with chaos and making you fear for your well-being. Things then get morbid and morose, lurking along and making your bones ache. That flow remains calculated until things start to boil again, as the vocals are utterly savage, the strings cry out in pain, and the band hits a gazey rambling that’s ferocious and infectious. “Sick and Sunder” is another shorter song (then again, 5:52 is long for many other bands) that’s built on dusty, eerie sounds, guitars drizzling, Vonne’s viola moaning, and a deep cloud cover setting in and stretching into 14:33-long closer “Narcissus.” The start of the song is moody before sparks fly and the band hits full throttle. The band hammers heavily, laying waste to everything around them before settling into a peaceful stretch that’s incredibly atmospheric. More jolts strike, as clean singing leads the way and starts to paint a picture of defiant strength, as the line, “The blade is sharp against my throat,” insists the idea of flinching or blinking in the eye of death is unthinkable. The final moments are beautiful, glorious, and battle-worn, giving the sense that while some battles were lost, the long war can be won.

This record might not soothe everything that ails you all the time, but I’ll be damned if “Litany” hasn’t made a ton of sense at a time when stress with dealing with humanity has been at its highest. Dead to a Dying World’s mission is worthy and volcanic, one that fits into much of the metal landscape that inspired them but also stands atop as something totally different. There may not be a permanent solution to life’s ending frustrations, but having a band like Dead to a Dying World that understands and can translate your woes into music is a helpful thing to have when you feel like you’re the only person inhabiting a corner of the world flooded with hopelessness. They get it, and they just may have an answer for you.

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