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Preceded by a steady stream of self-released cassette EPs and 7” singles, this fifth full-length from this New Haven, CT foursome is the group’s first in five years. But it might as well have been 25 years, so different is Death from their last one, 2010’s ambitious yet askew, three-sided double LP Apple Mountain. Indeed, with the exception of singer/guitarist/founder Dan Greene’s drowsy, deliberate drawl, Death’s blend of garage, psych, shoegaze, and noise-rock sounds almost unrecognizable from Apple’s more unassuming, spooky, lo-fi campfire folk. One of the keys to this sonic shift is the addition of lead guitarist Kryssi Battalene (also of one-woman electro-turntable project Colorguard, as well as label head of New Haven’s Elm Recordings) following Apple’s release. She assumes the role of Greene’s co-guitarist foil that Joey Maddalena held on 2009 third LP The Day Calls Out For You. On the elongated, entrancing outros tacked onto dreamy dirges “Before I Get Out of Bed” and “I’ve Been Moved,” and on more succinct numbers like the stoner-rock opener “Short Life” and surf-inspired “Dead Tomorrow,” Battalene’s chiming, clangorous, and careering chords skirt around and play off of Greene’s denser, fuzz-encrusted riffs.
A second upgrade comes from Ross Menze, also of Safety Meeting labelmates Estrogen Highs, who takes over the drumming duties handled by John Miller on the previous two albums (Miller’s still involved on Death, however, recording, mixing, and producing the LP). Menze’s weighty whack makes its presence felt throughout, most notably on the staggering, screechy-guitared stormer “I Watch the Sea.” On it, his stickwork is so savage and shambolic, you’d think Keith Moon had been summoned as a stand-in. Add in Greene’s intoxicating intonations, and Death Magic becomes an ideal potion: potent and palliative. (safetymeeting.net, safetymeeting.bandcamp.com)
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