When I first pulled up the newly launched video for the single "Dollar Chills" from Australia's so-called "party thrash" team DZ Deathrays, the first thing to instantly register in my horror-saturated brain was "Hell yeah, looks like that Chromeskull cat from the Laid To Rest movies put a pretty sick band together." As groovy as that prospect sounds in theory, it probably wouldn't go over to well in reality... but like I said, my head just naturally goes there. But this sonic death-dealing duo from Down Under are a whole new kind of monster, and they make a big, insane noise that's both frightening and exciting. I went in search of more, finally getting my hands on their debut full-length album Bloodstreams. Check out the review below the fold, and give that creepy-cool "Dollar Chills" vid a peek for yourself...
Originally formed in Brisbane as a roof-raising party band, DZ Deathrays was created by vocalist/guitarist Shane Parsons and drummer Simon Ridley, who managed to transform this deceptively simple combo into a mighty blast of crazed, chaotic heavy-beat experimental rock, thanks to some damn impressive arrangements and colorful, track-stacked production (by Richard Pike, whose credits include electro-rockers PVT). One of their first forays into North America was last year's SXSW fest, where they grabbed international attention, and this year they've scored the #4 spot on NME's "20 Most Exciting Bands for 2012" list. They're heading back to the US this year, so I wanted to get familiar with their work pronto.
It turns out these guys aren't a one-trick pony, because Bloodstreams is more than just a party jam record. I realized this immediately with the brief intro/title track, which showcases the band's (and producer Pike's) ability to transform Parsons' freestyle noodling into a bizarre sci-fi soundscape, blended with electronic sequences and psychedelic noise to lead you into their maniacal but fascinating world. The heavy begins with the raucous "Teenage Kickstarts," which lays out their minimal formula of super-short, hot and catchy anthems propelled by simple but skull-shattering beats and a cycling guitar hook. While you're still reeling from that one, they're already slipping into "Dollar Chills," an effects-driven mood piece with multi-tracked melodic vocals and a dangerously sensual mood.
Quirky, programmed guitar arpeggios are sprinkled through the darker, lower-key "Dumb It Down" and the amazing "Debt Death," which is also one of the band's creepier cuts, interspersed with a massive chord progression and chorus screams that pan across the stereo field (this one's awesome in a decent pair of headphones). "Gebbie Street," a track carried over from one the band's earlier recordings, has one of the album's standout riffs, backed by rock organ and jungle-style rhythms that climax in a rap-rock groove reminiscent of early Rage Against the Machine. After more fast-and-furious, bare bones party punk in "L.A. Lightning," we get the surprising cool-down tune "Play Dead Until You're Dead," which has a distinct early '90s UK club flavor, but with a rawer edge. The relentless cymbal crashes of "Dinomight" occasionally give way to an exchange of talk-sung chants and a house-rocking shouted chorus that is sure to be one of their favorite live numbers. The record closes with the slow-rolling '80s alt-pop vibe of "Trans AM," with Parsons' filtered vocals hovering over a wide sweep of gritty guitar harmonics, feedback and synth tweaking.
Capturing just the right balance of danceable punk and experimental psychedelic mood-rock, Bloodstreams is a hint of strange and amazing things to come from a band that deserves the attention they've been getting this year... but these songs are clearly meant to live and breathe in a live situation, so be on the lookout for them on the next tour. In the meantime, check out the visually stunning and skull-tacular "Dollar Chills" vid below!