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Dead in the Woods: The Sign of the Son of Man

I'm hoping that some of you will know what a Theremin is. I've had only limited exposure to them, but they are electronic instruments that are played without any physical contact with the instrument itself. They have what I can only call a science fiction-like sound, having been used, for example, on Bernard Hermann's famous score for The Day the Earth Stood Still back in the 1950s, a score that set the pattern for what science fiction sounds like. I won't go into any detail about how to play a Theremin, since I don't really know, and that there's a wealth of information on the internet (I searched on Wikipedia). I did see the episode of The Big Bang Theory wherein Sheldon Cooper played a Theremin to distract himself from the troubles the other characters were facing; I'm confident that some readers will have seen that one, too.

I mention all this because The Sign of the Son of Man has plenty of Theremin playing in it. The result is cool, but you'll have to prepare yourself for long stretches of psychedelic-sounding music that hasn't always found a place within metal / hardcore. Anyone hearing it for the first time, especially on a metal album, will need to give it a chance. I had to adjust my own ears, but I'm pretty sure that I liked the overall result. I don't think that Dead in the Woods is only using the Theremin as a gimmick. After all, the sound it produces is kind of cool, but it is an acquired taste. Fortunately, these guys use it within a somewhat familiar context of hardcore metal. Listeners should check out "Beyond Tannhauser Gate" for a complete immersion into what Dead in the Woods does with the Theremin.

Beyond the Theremin, this album can best be described by words like "chaotic" or "crazy." I don't mean to imply anything terribly negative here; this music seems to revolve around feelings of despair that these guys want to explore without getting caught by it completely. To me, this album is a musical response to tragedy, a reflection on life's difficulties. It's also a last gasp--the band broke up shortly after recording this album. The Sign of the Son of Man serves as a fitting conclusion to a short but interesting career. I was interested in the tracks that blended the heavy with the Theremin-infused psychedelic sounds. Check out "Hellmouth," for example. Here's a track that is clearly drawn to the power of the dark side of life, but wants to make sense of it without being consumed by it. I love the way the guitars chug on this track, always a good sound to evoke the threatening power of a Hellmouth. I suggest contrasting this track with "Calvaire" so you can hear the creative uses of dissonance in the guitars. Of the two, I preferred "Hellmouth."

This is a good release, one that has enough musical variety and interest to keep people hooked. It does require a little more work than some listeners will prefer--but give it a chance, if only to get a sense of how these guys turn to music to think through the problem of chaos and destruction. Check it out if you like heavy music that develops somewhat slowly and also features plenty of improvisation. Its unconventional, but solid. I have a feeling that these guys used to put on a crazy live show.

Track Listing:
1. Calvaire
2. Frontier Town
3. Beyond Tannhauser Gate
4. The Awakening
5. Enlil Banished
6. Hellmouth
7. Hoyerswerda
8. Twin Sundown of Zeta Reticuli

Added: June 16th 2012
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Score:
Related Link: Record Label Page
Hits: 1219
Language: english

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