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Album Review: With the Dead – Love from With the Dead

When you consider how With the Dead basically started out as Electric Wizard with Lee Dorrian singing, it is somewhat amusing that it now has more former members of Cathedral than any other band. One time Bolt Thrower drummer Alan Thomas has replaced Mark Greening, and longtime Cathedral bassist Leo Smee rounds things out quite nicely. The shifts in the rhythm section suggest some possible changes, but With the Dead are just as dark, grimy, and hopeless as ever.

The lineup isn’t the only thing that’s bigger on Love from With the Dead. While the debut was a largely straightforward forty-one minute journey through six tracks of doom, this album found the time to shove a seventh track in and more elaborate song lengths results in over twenty additional minutes of music. The seventeen minute dirge on the closing “CV1” takes this idea to a near breaking point, though “Watching the Ward Go By” also stands out due to an ambient influence and spoken word persisting through its ten minute runtime.

Even though the band dynamic isn’t too different from the debut, the musicianship experiences a certain fullness that hadn’t been there before. While I had initially hoped that Tim Bagshaw would move to bass to make room for a different guitarist, his minimalist patterns and filthy tone do feel more comfortable with a different bassist backing him up. I must also give props to Thomas for an energetic drum performance and Dorrian’s tales of death and despair are as expressive and varied as this inherently monolithic approach allows.

On the flip side, the songwriting earns integrity points for never straying from its snail’s crawl pacing, but there aren’t too many distinctly powerful riffs or vocal lines either. That said, “Egyptian Tomb” is the most distinguishable of the album’s shorter tracks thanks to its punchy guitar work and aggressive drumming, while “Reincarnation of Yesterday” offers the closest thing to an upbeat tempo.

While With the Dead’s sound remains more or less the same on their second full-length, the longer lengths may make it harder to get into compared to the debut. An hour’s worth of material makes this an exhausting effort that may require extra listens for seasoned doom fans and serves no interest to anyone else. There’s something to be said for With the Dead’s adherence to their nihilistic vision, but their debut may still be the best way to experience it.

Highlights:
“Egyptian Tomb”
“Reincarnation of Yesterday”
“Watching the Ward Go By”

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