Review by Darren Smith for MPM
From the first time I set my eyes and ears on London based rockers Dead Man’s Whiskey at HRH AOR back in 2018 I have found the music they produce and their rousing live shows completely captivating and exhilarating.
I have seen them many times since, in fact they were the headline act at my first post-lockdown gig back in July, and their debut album ‘Under The Gun’ is one of my go to driving albums as it has everything you need to while away the hours behind the wheel.
When I was offered the chance to review their new 5 track EP ‘Breakout’, I jumped at it as I really wanted to hear the new music early doors. Oh boy am I glad I did as from start to finish it is a complete auditory delight. It has everything you need to give you the listener, the utmost pleasure, from luscious guitars, a distinctly enticing beat and a wholly gratifying vocal display.
The EP, which the band recorded with producer John Mitchell, a man who has worked with Alter Bridge, Enter Shakiri and Inglorious, to name but a few, during the lockdown’s is released on Friday 1st October. It contains 5 tracks, four of which are brand new and a tender, touching re-recorded version of ‘Make You Proud’.
Talking of the bands time in creating the EP, frontman Nico Rogers said “The last 12 months have been a hell of a time for music, both on and off the stage! Writing became a great way to keep our feet kicking under the water, and as a team we managed to just about stay afloat.
When we could finally get into the studio (not even all at once, safety first!) it was like a weight off our shoulders. So much of the frustration of lockdown, the difficulty of being away from friends and loved ones is poured into these songs, it was cathartic in a big way to get them out of our systems.
We honestly can’t wait to get these songs on the road, everyone needs something new and exciting after all this horribleness and we’re trying our best to do that for our fans. There’s a lot of heart in this one, some laughs when we needed uplifting, some anger when the frustration got too intense, but most of all, there’s an older, though probably not wiser, us in it, and we can’t wait to share it with you.”
Opening track ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ grabs your attention and hits your taste buds like a much desired and sought out, well matured single malt. From the opening guitars, to the thunderous first drum beat and the build up to the monstrous riff you are catapulted into another worldly state and that is all before Nico’s gritty vocals kick in.
The track which the frontman describes as “quite brutal and self-reflective”, is a monumental slice of guitar driven hard edged rock. He goes on to say that lyrically “I really lay out some or my mental health struggles, such as my tendencies toward burnout and depression, all shown through the lens of music.” This is one of the things I absolutely love about this band, not only is the music out of the top drawer, but they write about topics that we can all relate to and that for me really adds to their appeal. What a fantastic start.
Next up is ‘I Am Here’, a real heavyweight ball-busting track that propels itself forward with enough destructive force to destroy everything in its path. Starting out with yet another luxurious guitar riff that comes blasting out of your speakers and smacks you straight in the face like a right hook producing a knock-out blow, it is another glorious tune. More passioned and soaring vocals from Rogers as he tells a tale of inflated egos and self-aggrandisement. All the finest Dead Man’s Whiskey ingredients are included, from soaring vocals, to sublime guitar parts and solos from Billy Kons and Elliott D’Alvarez and an infectious beat from the rhythm section of Charlie Gray and James Titley that causes uncontrollable tapping from your limbs extremities.
Rogers goes on to say about the song “There’s a lot of tongue in cheek humour here, I was allowed to wreak a little vocal havoc, but twinned with the cool groove of the verses and huge layered chorus it creates a narrative whose central character we are all pretty sure we’ve met somewhere out there, and always dread we will become!” 10 out of 10 from me.
The EP’s title track and next offering ‘Breakout’ is quite possibly my early favourite of the four new tracks on offer. All I wrote on my first listen to it was drums, guitars, vocals, action! Four words that to my mind not only sum up the track but the band as well. It has all the hallmarks of being a future live favourite, with its chanted ‘Breakout’ chorus, clearly made for mass crowd participation.
Just listen to the lyrics like “five days starts to take it’s toll, waited all week for the rock and roll” and tell me they are not what every hardened rock fan does each and every week. Do we not all do the Monday to Friday grind just so that we can immerse ourselves in the glory of a weekend spent with like minded individuals praying at the alter of rock ‘n’ roll. Rogers explains the lyrical content “was ironically about the drudgery of being stuck in the office, which we’ve all ended up so far away from it started to lose relevance.
The feeling of being trapped somewhere though, and especially that longing for a night of live rock and roll, has intensified. This is where this track lives, it’s all about the hunger we have to get back up there and play, how much we want to see our friends out there playing, too. There’s some anger in there, but twinned with desperation and after the last year a little sadness, too.” I dare say that there is not a single person reading this who cannot resonate fully with the feelings in those words as this thing we love so much, we were starved of for so long.
‘Never Ever’ is the heaviest track on offer on ‘Breakout’. It is full of pummelling drums, crunching guitars and angst fuelled lyrics that show a gritty, in your face side to the band, of which the frontman says “It’s an angry song this one, a big chunky riff and a whole lot of frustration poured into it, makes this an audio punch in the gut. It’s a song that talks about how we won’t quit, no matter the odds, we’re here to fight and win, or die trying!” He’s not lying either and that is four towering, imposing rockers for you to get your teeth into.
The final track on the EP is a piano version of ‘Make You Proud’. Now I don’t know about anybody else but I have seen Nico really struggle with his emotions so many times performing this and each and every time it always puts a lump in my throat. Rightly or wrongly, this song is always a memorable moment in any of the bands sets, just purely because of the raw emotion that it involves.
I was intrigued to hear this new version which for the most part is Nico and a piano and put simply, it is stunningly beautiful. The vocals over a very simple piano part play havoc with your heartstrings as the frontman lays down each stirring and touching line. You can honestly do nothing but hang on every word he sings and feel the pain and pride that drove him to write this deeply personal and poignant number.
He says of the new version “Lockdown really seemed to extend the distance between all of us, and our families, too. We had played this track with a guest pianist live before and, with all that sadness about being away from the people we care about, poured that into a new take on one of our most beloved songs. It’s strange hearing it in a new way but it was fascinating to see how those words felt with the perspective of lockdown added to them.”
The bluesy guitar part that kicks in just before the four minute mark really does make your heart weep when it blends in so eloquently with the piano to bring this moment of tranquillity and thoughtfulness to a close. I don’t know if the band can or will perform ‘Make You Proud’ in this format live again but I would imagine that if they do, the song, which already pulls your own senses everywhere, will result in their being not a single dry eye in the house. Wow, wow, wow! That was breathtakingly, stunningly beautiful and such a graceful and stirring way to bring to a close a quite glorious EP.
I’m now going to pour myself a large dram of the Scottish tipple and listen to ‘Breakout’ a few more times so that I can really revel in its majesty as the five songs the band are releasing here are all worthy of being enjoyed without any disruption like a highly valued single malt should be.
BREAKOUT EP TRACK LISTING
Sleep When I’m Dead
I Am Here
Make You Proud (Piano Version)
DEAD MAN’S WHISKEY ARE
Nico Rogers – Vocals
Billy Kons – Guitar
Elliott D’Alvarez – Guitar
James Titley – Bass
Charlie Gray – Drums
DEAD MAN’S WHISKEY ONLINE
Website – www.deadmanswhiskey.co.uk
Facebook – www.facebook.com/DeadMansWhiskey/
Twitter – www.twitter.com/deadmanswhiskey
Instagram – www.instagram.com/deadmanswhiskey/