It's a curse, I tell ya... my twin obsessions with horror and music dominate my life 24/7, so if an indie band pops up on my radar that takes its name from a legendary horror film series, it's pretty much a given I'm going to check 'em out, even if out of pure morbid curiosity. As you can probably imagine, lots of these blind searches end in pain (if you knew how many awful horror-themed bands are out there, you'd weep for the future of our beloved genre), but luckily for you readers, I don't waste much time writing about those. But when the band hits the mark, it's like finding an extra twenty bucks in your pocket: it can brighten up your whole day. Once such find is the scrappy genre-bending combo The Deadites. Not only do they claim vast knowledge in the field of monster-hunting, obscure martial arts and secret occult societies, they also bring some hot electro grooves.
Declaring themselves "The World's Finest Monster-Hunting Electro-Shock Band," The Worcester, MA-based Deadites have been crafting their over-the-top musical brand for the decade, building a regional rep based on their insane live performances and a bizarre mystique surrounding their members' extracurricular activities, which include a pretty cool comic book series. Founded by hockey-masked enigma Tiny Wight (also the chief songwriter), the band's lineup has revolved a bit over the years, but currently punches in at a whopping seven members, with multiple vocalists and an instrumental arsenal featuring mainly synths, but also trumpets, miscellaneous percussion and freaky sampling. The Big Scary Monster Hunts at Midnight is the band's first official studio release, and for such a small package, it's full of surprises.
The EP kicks off with the title track, a spoken-word intro featuring ominous old-school narration that recalls those awesome Halloween records they used to sell out in the '60s and '70s (I have quite a few of those in my collection), but with a distinctly adult twist: this particular monster has a taste for naughty girls who like get liquored-up and shake their "special parts." The EP kicks off proper with "Too Ugly for Heaven," an effective dance-floor piece based around high-tempo drum 'n' bass rhythms, soaring keyboard washes and thudding bass lines beneath a raw, sleazy lead vocal by Dynamo Habeeb. When I got to the next two cuts, "Aquaphobic" and "Underground Sky," with vocals shared by Oracle (who sometimes sounds a bit like Natalie Merchant), I thought for a second I'd bought a couple of tracks from the wrong band – the pensive, exotic mood of these tunes represent a near-180 from the gritty bump & grind of the opener, exuding a more subtle, smoldering sensuality. If this were a full-length album, these might have dropped the energy level too soon, but they both stand up well as sexy mid-tempo dance singles. The EP closes with "New Murders in the Rue Lounge," an electro-funk spin on the Edgar Allan Poe tale "Murders in the Rue Morgue," filled with atmospheric synth arrangements that wrap the frantic beats in a cloak of vintage horror.
Overall, this EP is a brief but cool overview of a multi-faceted band who work their way across the club-music spectrum, bouncing from electro-punk to pop to darkwave to hip-hop and industrial, often over the course of a single song. If there's anything lacking, it may be the energy that the band clearly emits when playing to an audience, which has been their strength for many years. I'd also love to hear an album-length arc that allows them more room to play out the many different colors of their sound... in fact, I'm thinking a horror concept album from these cats would kick serious ass.
Big Scary Monster is available as a digital download through all the major outlets including iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. You can also drop by the band's official site to read the first two Deadites comics, watch the band shoot the shit about music, horror flicks and wrestling moves on their goofy laid-back "Cryptocast," and even pick up a few monster-hunting tips from Tiny. You can also sample their earlier tracks using the widget below.