If Little Rock, Arkansas' RWAKE are the deliverers of progressive sludge psychosis, then Fayetteville's DEADBIRD are the distillation of it into a crawling, bloody mess of crippling depression and pervasive anxiety. What the hell is going on down there in the land of Clinton anyway? There is in fact a more personal connection between both bands — DEADBIRD's Charles Schaaff (guitar/vocals) is a former member of RWAKE. Recorded in late 2003, "The Head and the Heart" gets a European release on Codebreaker Records this summer and lands on U.S. shores via Earache on October 4. God help the unprepared and the bipolar.
The style heard on the disc is a kind of southern doom, baked in a sludgy sauce with pure grain alcohol as a primary ingredient, and topped with a thick Valium crust. Much like DEADBIRD's partners in the art of mind expansion (or collapse, depending on your point of view), catchall terms like "doom" or "sludge" used in isolation are too simplistic to capture the music's essence. "Doom" does provide an indication of the atmosphere created, but it doesn't stop there. Slow tempo pieces with over-amplified guitars and bass buzz are interrupted by melancholic acoustic interludes. Up-tempo sections ultimately get crushed down into a churning slow burn. The plague may take the form of an acoustic instrumental shadowed by a feeling of slight unease ("1332") or a maze of twists and turns, from gloomy melody to an anger-filled desperation landslide ("Mount Zero [is Burning]"). Sorrowful melodic leads that hover just above rhythmic lava flows are found throughout. The most aggressive vocals are reminiscent of the guttural drawl of BEATEN BACK TO PURE's Ben "Boss" Hogg, just not delivered in front-of-the-mix fashion nor with quite the same level of in-your-face attitude.
"The Head and the Heart" is not for everyone. If it were it wouldn't fill that special void craved by those falling somewhere between moderately disaffected and severely warped. The heavily medicated among you should approach with extreme caution. May be fatal if swallowed.