If you haven’t gotten the memo yet, you should know that the fine, handsome and well-educated folks at Last Rites really enjoy some high-quality deathrock. It also seems like Los Angeles, for all its eternal sunshine and wealthy celebrities has a similar inclination. Perhaps it’s all the traffic or the pollution or the wealthy celebrities that make the area so inclined toward the darker sides of rock and roll. Los Angeles-based deathrock outfit Deth Crux (featuring members of Buried at Sea and Lighting Swords of Death) further share in the affinity for a death-centric lifestyle and appear to be fine, handsome and well-educated gents. Thus, it’s with ghastly pleasure and horrific delights that Last Rites is proud to present their debut LP Mutant Flesh.
It’s been three long, grueling years since Deth Crux released their EP Pears of Anguish. Why the band chose that as a title is a mystery, but we do know that the material that made up Pears of Anguish was promising and gave insight into the band’s future plans for a debut full-length. Now, Mutant Flesh has finally arrived, and boy does it ever deliver the goods for those of us who happen to love that UK-styled goth.
With a format similar to an opera, Mutant Flesh tells a long, dark tale—each song subtly linked by musical themes and velvety storytelling. Heavy, jagged drums and angular guitars support deep tenor vocals dripping with sensual, sexual references and bloody romance. Synthesizers, keys, horns (particularly those handled by Bruce Lamont) and guitars that are deftly intertwined and softly mixed weave a pleasurable path as the album slowly billows between tracks that are both raucous with rhythms and those that are more aggressive with guitars.
“Chrome Lips” opens in a fiery manner, with the feel of horror enhanced by a distant organ humming an almost circus-like melody beneath pained vocals that nimbly balance the post-punk pacing of the rhythm section. The vocals, left high in the mix, drive the track interlacing staccato among slow guitar melodies. “Chrome Lips” uses simple, formulaic composition to effectively deliver its musical message, adding melodic touches with each pass. The extended outro, highlighted by horns and keys, allows the track to die a soft death before the title track is born of fire.
At the other end of the spectrum, “Lycanthropic Prostitution” opens with a definitively dark wave feel as a reverb-drenched bass line picks itself clean over dissonant guitars. Utilizing a rhythm that would make any moper clad in steel toe boots boogie, the song reaches its end goal slowly; as the instruments fade away, leaving space for the bass and drums, the rhythm never quits making “Lycanthropic Prostitution” a depressing yet rewarding dance track. The lyrics are distinct, depressing and somber, and they’re crooned over diverging bass and guitar.
While Deth Crux might not set the genre on fire, the combination of both modern gothic touches and more vintage deathrock combine perfectly to create a timeless work of dark rock. Ambitious as they are with the opera theme, the album can easily be enjoyed piecemeal. Whether it’s the more Pixies-style vocals of “Black Abominable Lust” or the softer, Andrew Eldritch style take from “Persephone is Half Human,” Mutant Flesh is sure to provide something enjoyable for lovers of a number of genres. It’s for driving your car, dancing in your basement, lounging in the park (clad in black of course), and for just enjoying life.
Be sure to pick up a hard copy of the album (or MP3s, if you’re under 32), and don’t forget to flip up that denim collar and toss on your blackest of black Ray-Bans before pressing play.