by Joe Mis
Staff Writer –
9xDead is a veteran self-proclaimed “dark rock” act from South Wales in the UK – the name confirms it. Musically 9xDead is a mix of traditional hard rock and heavy metal with some Gothic metal elements added to spice things up, and their latest release Cursed is a good one.
Pain (the emotional kind) is a central theme of their music, whether the pain of loneliness, nightmares, fears, death or sadness. The music is as dark as the lyrics, with heavy bass grinding guitars and intense riffs giving Cursed an almost steam-punk or Gothic feel without borrowing too much from those genres. Influences of old-school metal acts abound, but they are only influences – 9xDead has taken these and made them their own. The hints of punk and Gothic metal only add to the moodiness of the release, which somehow manages to stay melodic throughout.
9xDead has been together for a decade, and they play together solidly, as a veteran act should. Lead singer Glenn Newbrook has a perfect voice for the music – a bit dry, rough and raspy – perhaps a cross between Paul Di’Anno and Ronnie Atkins. He sings from the gut, putting huge effort into his work, and the very few vocal rough spots only add to the grit and atmosphere of the music. The guitar work of James Radford and Paul Keene is impressive whether they are galloping along with a punk-inspired riff or chugging along with a moody gothic rhythm line. They make a fine team in the tradition of the great NWOBHM duos. Fine performances are also turned in by both Miff Guildford on bass and Gary Appleby on the drums. Guildford’s bass is pounding and intense throughout, and the mix of the album seems to be tilted to emphasize the bottom end – so if you like bass you won’t be disappointed. Gary Appleby is a solid drummer and lays down a number of interesting patterns and fills, handling the many diverse musical styles perfectly.
Musical highlights include the up-tempo punk stylings, tight guitar solo and gritty rocking chorus of “The Patriarch;” the flowing bass work, contrasting tempos and biting lyrics of “Unspoken;” the massive vocals and musical intensity of “I’m Ruin;” the almost Iron Maiden-like riffs of “Parental Guidance;” the great musicianship of the entire band on “Hollow On The Inside;” the driving bass and general creepiness of “Lullaby;” the pure hard rock groove of “Monster;” and then nicely done bitter ballad-like “Serenity”.
The band’s songwriting is very good, with the lyrics dark and moody without being lurid. Their performances are very tight, and the song structure is consistent and traditional. The only true negative aspect of Cursed is a seemingly sub-par mix. While vocals and guitar are always sharp and clear, the balance is skewed too far towards the low end of the spectrum. At times the bass is so intense that it actually is distracting – occasionally you can hear the pop of the bass strings as Guildford mutes them. This has the unfortunate consequence of burying some of Appleby’s fine drum work, allowing only the highs of the drum kit to be heard – in effect eliminating the subtleties and making the drums sound hollow. Fortunately this is not a consistent problem – it only is noticeable on a few tracks.
Pick this up if you want to take an interesting journey into the darker depths of the human psyche. 9xDead will take you to the dark side, but their overall talent will not leave you there. These guys are definitely a band to watch.
Genre: Dark Rock
Glenn Newbrook (vocals, guitar)
James Radford (guitar)
Paul Keene (guitar, keyboards)
Miff Guildford (bass)
Gary Appleby (drums)
2. The Patriarch
4. I’m Ruin
5. Parental Guidance
6. Hollow On The Inside
Label: Casket Music
Hardrock Haven rating: 7.5/10