Dead Man - _Euphoria_
(Meteor City, 2008)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (9.5 out of 10)
As stoner-influenced bands reach further and further back towards the acid-inflected days of psych folk and space rock worship, more and more the influences germane to the metal genre are stripped to the bone, in no instance more clearly to these ears than (dope) fiendish acid blues mavens Dead Man and their sophomore effort _Euphoria_. Bring it the fuck on. I personally could care less for purism, and really this isn't a metal album at all, but instead a full blown hearkening back to the early-'70s era when metal had yet to coalesce, straddling the line between the straight hard blues of Deep Purple and the greased doom of Black Sabbath, while concurrently splits were emerging in the previously isolationist realms of acid folk and progressive rock. _Euphoria_ has a certain crepuscular haze about it but is ultimately rooted in melodic folk, replete with vocal harmonizing and archaic instrumentation. It needs to be emphasized that this is a distinctly American strain of folk (rock), a defiantly hippie love child paean gone astray in the twilight aftermath of Altamont and the '68 Democratic Convention in Chicago. I even hear a startling nod to the Grateful Dead in the interplay to "I Must Be Blind", including the loose-jam sloppiness the SF legends were known for.

I can tell you another thing: there's not a damned note on this album that smacks of Pro Tools meddling or any form of digital intervention at all. Dead Man recapture the analog warmth of the post-Woodstock corpus masterfully, weaving a crack rhythm section into the twisted DNA of the "we'll try anything with strings at least once" acoustic fetishism of the lead instruments in a dynamic, never boring melange of tripped out bliss. There's a refreshing lack of busyness in the production which is rare with today's penchant for trying to squeeze every spare inch of space out of however many tracks a band can afford to record on.

After playing it pretty straight with their dusty psych pop on side one, "The Wheel" takes things in a darker, musically progressive direction, sounding vaguely like acoustic early Sabbath -- the closest this ever gets to 'metal' -- but in truth closer to Jethro Tull, who we learned had nothing to do with the genre as far back as the 1988 Grammy awards. "Rest in Peace" keeps up the progressive inclination, but still sounds more like an _Astral Weeks_ outtake than anything Blue Cheer or Coven would have dabbled in, at least for the majority of the track. The instrumental breakdown about one third of the way through this song is worth the entire price of most albums released so far this year, and the last third of the song following that breakdown at least approaches Witchcraft levels of doom-like menace, ascending into a tribal maelstrom of shamanistic energy. I've been kicking myself for putting off the review of the Witchcraft _Alchemist_ album until it was past its sell by date, but I feel pretty fucking great about recommending _Euphoria_ as one of the unheralded godlike releases of 2008.

(article published 1/9/2008)


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