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CD Review – Dead Meadow “Shivering King and Others”

Dead Meadow
Shivering King and Others

At first listen, Dead Meadow’s latest release sounds like a bland version of a Black Sabbath record. Bland doesn’t sound like a flattering adjective, but in the case of Shivering King and Others, it is synonymous with heavier-than-metal introversion with horizon expanding stoner-rock. Alternative Press put it best when describing SK&O’s vibe as “taking drugs to make music to take drugs to.”

This album aptly captures a state of mind that is inherently paradoxical; a sort of numbness from over stimulation, while its guitars keep droning some of the best riffs since the ’70s. It’s like a party in a vacant house that could be a castle in a dream.

“I Love You Too” sways into another dimension as the album’s tone-setting opener. The listener may stubbornly cling to the cleaner veneer of the moments before pushing play on this album, but then Jason Simon’s slow, serpentine voice wails on top of the incessant, repeating melody “I don’t know the way love flows,” and takes the listener further away from lucidity and further into oneself.

SK&O is the guitar-dominated album that makes listeners like everything they thought they didn’t about guitar-fueled music. On this album, guitars are too loud, the beats and melodies are unforgivably repetitive and one can’t really discern Simon’s lyrics until looking inside the album’s sleeve.

Yet, through the seeming imperfections, there is no doubt that what’s being heard is art.

Some songs, such as “Babbling Flower,” have more spring to their jam-oriented step than others. This song’s sound is equally dense, yet, has long melodies subtly zig-zaging into other notes that suggest a completely different song. All the while, peddle effects strobe in and out and makes this one of SK&O’s best songs.

The fact that not all of the album’s songs have as much going on indicates the intention of monotony in them. DM’s monotony is exceptional because it’s so intense that one forgets what’s going on, which is best exemplified by the appropriately titled “Everything’s Going On.”

In this numb, Teutonic-like contemplation is a single chord dominating with some variation as well as foggy sounding effects.

The album continues in this varied fashion. One song will fly through guitar-driven haze like a psychedelic arrow, and the next is content to linger slowly like a primitive fire.

Another possible aspect in SK&O is fantasy. Fantasy is only a possible element because it’s up to the individual to find the extent of which a work inspires a setting in which to escape. Using guitars to create textured, atmospheric musicscapes is nothing new.

In fact, one could make a long list of what SK&O sounds like, but most comparisons, though accurate, are far from capturing the album.

To say the album is fantastical implies a point in which the critic no longer attempts to explain what the work is but posits what the work may inspire in other listeners.

However critically one responds to DM’s latest work, SK&O will remain pleasantly paradoxical in its ability to avoid labels — otherwise known as originality.

Contact Harold Valentine at