Last year when we interviewed D.D. Verni, best known as one of the core members of legendary New Jersey thrashers Overkill, we talked about some of his gothic and horror-themed projects he's been working on with his other band, Bronx Casket Company – including a Broadway-style vampire musical, and the cutely macabre animated short Little Dead Girl. But it's been over five years since the group has put out a new full-length album, and after a few delays that wait finally ends tomorrow with the debut of their fourth release Antihero. We recently got an advance listen, and we've got the full review waiting below the fold... so hit the jump and check it out!
New York-based Bronx Casket Co. was founded in 1998 by D.D. and Seven Witches guitarist Jack Frost, and on Antihero the core duo is joined by Charlie Calv on keyboards and drummer Rob Pallotta on drums, with Mike Romeo (Symphony X) laying down the guitar solos. In addition to playing his usual bass, Verni is now acting as lead vocalist – after the departure of former (briefly) Misfits singer Myke Hideous, who handled vocal duties on previous albums, inluding Sweet Home Transylvania and Hellectric.
If you've heard the band's previous releases, you'll recognize a lot of changes in their sound besides D.D.'s up-front vocal presence. For starters, Antihero has a much heavier, meaner and semi-industrial Rob Zombie-style vibe than its predecessors, which had a moody, doomy tone (especially the first two records). Verni has said that the heavier sound was better suited to his more metal-style vocal delivery, and he's got a good point there. Another recognizable change is the fatter, slicker production, which shows how the band has evolved and grown over the past five years, although the earlier lo-fi feel gave them a rough, old-school edge that isn't quite as apparent this time around. But the writing, melodies and riffs have never been stronger, and there's a lot of variety going thorough these 14 tracks.
If you've ever questioned the band's gothic cred, the opening title track will knock those doubts out of the park with its apocalyptic choir samples and keyboard stabs – although at heart it's basically a straightforward modern-metal groove, even with D.D.'s vocals lending an old-school touch. The thrashy “Bonesaw” and “You Look Like Hell” bring more horror elements to the front, with some unsettling dissonant guitar chords in the former and ghostly theremin swirls in the latter. The voodoo-themed “Sally” is one of the coolest horror songs on the album, with the most ominous atmosphere, sinister vocals and a gigantic electronically-enhanced riff. “I Never Loved You Anyway” and “I Am No One” don't venture into the same ultra-dark territory lyrically or musically, but between these two tracks the biting religious critique “Holy Mother” manages to tie in haunting gothic elements to darken its tone.
Acoustic and slide guitar lines give “Memphis Sorrow” a southern gothic feel and a light, dancing keyboard makes the beefy choruses seem even more ominous. “Selling My Soul” has more electro-metal elements, including loops of metallic samples and keyboards, which recall Rob Zombie's earlier output, while “Let Me Be Your Nightmare” is distinctly Metallica-like; Verni's vocals already have a similar style to those of James Hetfield, so that drives the similarity home. “NYC (Devil's Playground)” has a gritty, angry feel, and “Alive!” benefits from a heavy monster-stomping groove.
BCC has a wicked way with classic-rock covers, and they make some interesting choices for this album. Their take on Queen's “Death On Two Legs” holds on to the wild spirit of the original – including the piano and vocal harmonies – while darkening the tone into the realm of shock rock. The band's oddest cover effort so far follows in the footsteps of the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious by putting a rough and punkish spin on the Sinatra standby “My Way,” but the major key and uplifting lyrics feel a little bit out of place... it's placed at the end of the album though, so it does make for an interesting epilogue.
Even with its slicker, more mainstream production, Antihero still has all the ingredients that make Bronx Casket Co. a cult favorite, and if it reaches a wider audience it could mean more cool stuff to come – which is something fans of dark, horror-centric music should appreciate. Those fans include playwright Andrea Lepcio, who approached Verni about collaborating on a vampire-themed stage epic called The Bronx Casket Company... A New Musical. Other big names aboard the project include Tony Award-winning director Hinton Battle and several members of supergroup Trans-Siberian Orchestra, so this could be a really big deal if they can make it happen. Hopefully the release of Antihero will bring more attention to the band this year, and maybe we'll finally see the show make its official premiere. In the meantime, we've got plenty of cool new tunes to get us in the mood.