When is a scary film a good scary film? If you look at the state of the industry right now, it seems that studios forgo the magic condiments of “subtlety” and “atmosphere” and go for the cheap jump scares. I don’t mind jump scares, but don’t call a film made up of jump scares a horror film.
So, when you listen to Dead Sons debut album, The Holler and The Hymns, what do you get? That old school horror film, where it’s atmosphere and dread filling the screen. Oh, and a couple of well placed jump scares! Think Hammer Films, Carnival of Souls and even Pale Rider.
You see, their music is not what you could tag as “subtle” (specially with the pounding ‘Ghost train’ deftly opening the album), but there are spots where it’s not all distortion and thundering rhythms. The songs will be long stretches of road in the Durango desert, then topsy turvy deadly curves in the Baja California cliff highway.
Opener ‘Ghost Train’ sets the rhythm on cardio training and ‘Shotgun woman’ and ‘Bangonfullturn’ (both from their EP Boom Booom) maintain the pace. You’ll notice a couple of olden goldies in this album, but these 2 seem to be placed without any major changes (we’ll get to that).
Pace changes (slightly) with ‘A love as good as ours’ and ‘Hangman’. The distortion is still cranked up and the atmosphere is now rarefied with spices from a far away place that make the light shine ever so bright. That fucking evil cackle in ‘Hangman’ nearly gives me a heart attack. ‘Temptation Pool’ and ‘Hold on’ are the slower tracks in this album, because every road trip needs a few pitstops.
With all that said and done, let’s focus into three gems you will find in this collection. The first one is ‘Quest for the fire’, which was the song that made me a fan of the band. Part Weird Western, part coming of age road trip, this ditty has been re-recorded and it’s a beauty (‘Junk room’ does get the same treatment). ‘Stuck in the maze’ is a song that re-affirmed my love of the band, as it mixes the heavy riffs Dead Sons enjoy peddling, while still having a bit of a psychedelic breakdown. It’s the moment when a drug (peyote/red death/caffeine) kicks completely and we have entered the outer planes.
The crown jewel* in this collection is ‘The Hollers and The Hymns’, the cinematic track that lends its name to the album. Imagine an unnamed stranger coming to town who dispatches the ne’erdowells with utmost cruelty, while still ignoring the townspeople. Then he rides away, disappearing into the desert. A ghostly apparition of retribution, this song conveys it through an eerie, slow burning first half that yields an explosive finale. This song rocks live too.
They say that 19 Hz is the frequency of fear. It’s below normal human earing range, therefore you won’t hear it but you can feel it. It will create a feeling of dread and uneasiness The sounds of Dead Sons might be way above this but the effect seems the same. Their sounds will always dig a reaction out of you and when it’s all done and dusted, the eeriness will remain. If you like your rock hard with an aftertaste of psychedelia, you’ll be just right with The Hollers and The Hymns in your collection.
Words: Samuel J. Valdés López
*Debatable, as ‘Stuck in a maze’ is pretty solid too. I can’t decide which one I like best.