It wasn't the self-proclaimed “spaghetti western doom sludge” tag that drew me to King Dead. It was the fact that the instrumental trio is two bassists and a drummer. I love that dynamic. In fact, the spaghetti western part could very well have turned me the other way. It's not exactly a style I'm fond of. Try as I might I couldn't even make it all the way through that last Across Tundras album. But I gave King Dead the benefit of the doubt and forged ahead.
Forging ahead is actually a common theme on this self-titled debut. Without the benefit of vocals the music itself does the narration. Most often one can get a sense of the scene by the way King Dead shape their dynamics. They build up towards the spilling point creating a sense of drama.
The really interesting thing is one bassist, Will McGrath plays a 6-string and his role is higher pitched and steely, while Kevin Vanderhoof takes the low road with his growling low end. At times McGrath will soar like an eagle while Vanderhoof plods away below. At others Vanderhoof plays the lead role while McGrath provides more atmosphere. It's not the sound you'd expect from two basses but that makes it all the more appealing.
Directing the show in a way is drummer Steve Truglio. As he goes, so does the song. He can sit back and let the bassists do their thing or he can push the energy through, sparking the drama to unfold in cathartic climax.
On the hole King Dead is ethereal and smokeladen. The steely and rumbling basses are quite expressive. It can go from depressing to triumphant and back again. Their bluesy psychedelia sounds like solitude and introspection. But there's a resolve, determination and urgency that filters through over the course of the journey.
From ambling cadences to full-on sprints the album unfolds with a sense of purpose. Drone, doom and sludge all have their place on this heartfelt, expansive and callous-handed release. The desert aura and steely/synth tone would have you thinking in reddish hues but the album pulses with a blood more blue. The noonday sun shines not on King Dead. Storm clouds gather on the horizon at dusk bringing a chill to the air. And well, King Dead is pretty cool.