Band: Death Alley
Label: Century Media
Release Date: 23 March, 2018
It’s so hard to keep up with the scene anymore. There’s so many bands, so many good bands, so many great bands, that some get lost in the shuffle. Hell, it’s hard for me to keep track of groups that I really love, much less newer bands that come along and are making a hot impression of their own. Which brings me to Death Alley, a group I’ve heard of before, but knew little about before this review. I came to the record expecting something from the retro-rock perspective, something like Kadavar or maybe some Horisont. What I got was a total, joyous surprise.
First, let’s talk about the members of the band. I had no idea one of my favorite guitarists, from one of my favorite bands (The Devil’s Blood), had moved on to this project: Oeds Beydals. That man can play some guitar, let me tell you. And then you have the drummer, Uno Bruiniusson, who played in a couple bands I really liked (In Solitude and Procession). So immediately, I was excited. And then I heard the dynamic vocals of Douwe Truijens and the fantastic bass playing of Sander Bus, and everything was locked into place.
Death Alley has a sound that’s kind of hard to pin down, because it’s equal parts many things, and yet it is not bound wholly to any of them. There’s plenty of punk and spit here, greasy workings that come from the sprint and energy of the band, but mostly from the vocals and the lyrics. They are snotty and defiant at times, and yet beautiful and melodic at others. Truijens reminded me of Wednesday 13 at some points, Kory Clarke (Warrior Soul) at others, with lots of 70’s rock flavor in-between. He’s got some range to his presentation, and I don’t mean vocal range, but “soul” range. He’s a guy that sings from the heart. All the while you have this amazing band surrounding the proceedings, pulsing and rocking and punching and serenading. I can’t say enough about the drums, or the guitars, or the bass. They’re all over the place and still cohesive. I can hear the MC5 in there, and King Crimson, and some of the spaciness of Hawkwind. These things shouldn’t fit together, and yet they do. Punk and Prog shouldn’t work as a combination, but here you go.
Opener “Daemon” is a great example. The song swirls to life, plenty psychedelic, plenty delicate, plenty haunting, the drums rumbling, the guitar eddying, and it grows, and grows, building in power and space, until it explodes into life. This is bright, effusive music, underpinned with dark knowledge, the desperate vocals warning and soothing at the same time. And oh my, those solos…Nine minutes of pure rock power, heavy and light, full of dread and wonder.
And the album just carries on from there, each song rolling by, most of them long (not that you would notice because they just cruise, man), shortest being “Murder Your Dreams” which clocks in at about three minutes. It thumps, urgent and heavy and melodic, full of that bristling punk energy that somehow finds its outlet in a hard rock gallop.
Everything leads to closer “The Sewage,” which is a massive epic, eleven and a half minutes long. This is a song that never wavers, never backs down, and despite its length, keeps things more than interesting throughout. Beydals really struts his stuff here, as his guitar just takes over, like it was somehow being held back throughout the entire album (it wasn’t) and is now, finally being unleashed in full power. In fact, everyone flat plays their asses off here, the bass seamlessly weaving in and out, flashy but never dominant, the drumming urgent, and the vocals conveying the spirit of the song in precisely the right tones and emotions.
This is a rare record that reveals itself both immediately and in layers, through repeated listens. It’s worth investing the time and effort into unpacking it, but it also rewards right away with a rock swagger that few bands possess. It’s all helped along by a dark, 90’s kind of production, that reminds me of grunge in its dirtiness, but also, somehow, bright and clear. “Superbia” is an excellent name for this record, and Death Alley really do deliver on the promise of the title. I can see this album becoming a 9 out of 10 with more listens. Get out and get yourself a copy.
2. The Chain
3. Feeding the Lions
4. Headlights in the Dark
5. Shake the Coil
6. Murder Your Dreams
8. The Sewage
Total Playing Time: 50:51