October 13, 2018

Deadbird - III: The Forest Within the Tree

By Nate Garrett. There’s a reason why bands that come from Arkansas are so powerful. The entire area is haunted. Ask certain people there and you’ll get certain explanations. Their theories will range from spirits carried along the river
By Nate Garrett.


There’s a reason why bands that come from Arkansas are so powerful. The entire area is haunted. Ask certain people there and you’ll get certain explanations. Their theories will range from spirits carried along the river, to restless Native Americans reaching out from their burial mounds. No matter what you call this ominous force that permeates the Natural State, Deadbird has always been one of its strongest channelers. The band has been dormant for a decade, and now it has returned with its best album.

Opening track “The Singularity” features intimate acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies reminiscent of the dark melancholy of Alice In Chains. A swirling undercurrent generates a sense of foreboding beneath the beauty of the music. According to guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schaaf, the sound in question is a recording of a massive glacier calving (look it up). This is a fitting introduction to the album, as the looming end of humanity has always been an inherent theme of the band’s music.

“Luciferous Heart” is a romping rock and roll masterpiece. Layered guitars exchange classic hard rock riffs under a barrage of harmony vocals that sound like The Allman Brothers if they were from hell. The mid-tempo swing is disintegrated by a pummeling gallop during the bridge. This section resides somewhere between Black Sabbath and High on Fire, yet remains distinctly southern. The song then slows to a crushing crawl, proving that Deadbird is still among the best bands in the world as far as southern sludge is concerned.

“Heyday” is another epic track that runs the gamut of Deadbird’s creative arsenal. Like its predecessor, this song features haunting vocal harmonies, impossibly heavy riffs, soaring guitar harmonies, and enthralling dynamics. Next up is “Alexandria,” the most unexpectedly catchy track on the album. This is the closest thing to a single Deadbird has ever recorded, and it works. Remember when Baroness was more brawn than brains? That might get you in the right ballpark. The verse/chorus structure is streamlined for maximum potency, and the vocal melodies are as infectious as they get.

“11:34” is an instrumental, a compelling bassline awash with guitar harmonies that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Metallica or Priest record. But as always, Deadbird carves its own path, and the music is accompanied by the nighttime sounds of an Arkansas forest. You can almost feel the ghosts I mentioned earlier in this review. “Brought Low” is a heartfelt, bone-deep song about depression, driven by expert control of dynamics. It thrives upon the interplay of light and shade that bands like Led Zeppelin understood was so crucial. The verses are vulnerable and fragile, and the chorus is pure aggressive release. This song ends with one of the best riffs you’ll hear from Deadbird, or any other band for that matter. The last section in particular manages to be unpredictable and still viscerally moving at the same time. “Bone and Ash” is the most overtly heavy song on the album, connecting the dots between crust and post-metal. This track is pure aggression, an assault of d-beat brutality counterpointed by the groove of southern-fried doom. “Ending” is both the conclusion of the album, and the final chapter in the trilogy of subdued interludes. It’s the closing movement of a masterfully constructed piece of music.

Deadbird III: The Forest Within the Tree is a sprawling portrait of the heartache, longing, joy, depression, exhilaration, magic, misery, and hope that informed all the greatest music from the American South. This is the blues by way of Neurosis, southern rock via His Hero Is Gone, gospel that praises the best of classic metal, and soul that only life experience can produce. Deadbird lives.


Nate plays in Spirit Adrift and Gatecreeper.
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