Death Valley Driver: Graveyard Dead

When we first encountered these guys a year or so ago, the disc was too old to review and well, we didn't like it much anyway.  The cover was a huge WTF with some sort of skeletal Mexican wrestler holding a mic that looked more like a computer mouse and some ghost chick under his armpit.  Really, one of the weirder covers we've seen, and the sound was just as sloppy, though it had some moments of sludge that woke us up for a brief second or two.  When this new one came into the recently changed address, having heard them before, hopes were not high, but then hopes were made high and we were duly punished for our previous foolery.  Graveyard Dead still has this weird presence to it that's probably going to require an interview to understand.  We're treated to, yet again, another Mexican wrestler reference that makes one wonder, have these guys seen too much Aztec Mummy or something?  This is probably, honestly, an angle that could be worked more by someone, but we're not entirely sure they're there yet.  There it is on the cover again, a skeleton getting ready to leap from a turnbuckle somewhere on the horizon, screaming or something over a graveyard of zombies.  Inside you're treated to more of this odd, lo-fi, B-movie art with some cryptic phrases.  But our "huh" turned into "hey" in a few seconds upon listening.

 

 

Having heard their previous work, which you can find here, this is several clear steps above.  They've got the whole 'death 'n roll' thing going for them with some sludge.  Production, top notch, basically perfect for what you need for proper sludge, and Billy Anderson had his hands on it, so yeah.  It's very difficult to achieve this level of grime without either one, going too far and turning it into a mess in which only the most experienced of us can discern music, or two, making it too clean so it enters Helmet territory, and no one wants that unless they're listening to Helmet.  Yes, they're not sludge, we get it, it's just an analogy to bring light to the critical element of production for proper sludge.  Death Valley Driver have just that right touch of production where you can make out the chords, but just the right amount of filth that you can smell the smoke hovering over their heads and catch a few drops of mucosal blood on your face as dude throats his lyrics.  Graveyard Dead's got the licks, it's got the sticks (in your head), and you'll get the chicks when you listen to it.  See how clever we rhyme around here?  That's creative.  This time around these guys are creative too as they cast out some awesome riffage; sometimes simple, sometimes covered with flourishes of solo power, other times  grinding out with some sick vocals as the icing.  Happy Birthday to You, it says in sugary glory.

 

There's something simply fun, yet basic, about this album, difficult to place.  Sure, fans of the typical Southern doom acts should get into it, no problem there, but it has a sound of its own that isn't immediately comparable to any one Down or Entombed, though at least one of these guys is rocking a shirt.  There's more of a classic groove updated with modern beast, more of a focus on substance as opposed to atmosphere, and an image we're still trying to fathom.  But hey, they can work out this Mexican horror wrestling skeleton stuff another time, the core factor is here, the sound.  Image is important, but without that sound anything can become a straight gimmick.  Death Valley Driver have an easy-to-access yet individual sound to their music, and hey, if Billy Anderson had his hands on it, you know it has to be worth something.  Guy's had his hands on practically everything noteworthy in the metal underground, and these guys were lucky enough to have him mix and master Graveyard Dead, and it might be a significant reason for why it sounds so good.  These guys have come a long way since their self-released Choke the River, and they're not nearly as ridiculous as that title sounds.  We admit, we laughed at that then and we're still laughing.  Now, we're not laughing so much, we're applauding.  Cool grooves, a real keeper if you get your hands on it.  Hint, that means you probably should.

 

Death Valley Driver Official Facebook 

Written by Stanley Stepanic

Death Valley Driver: Graveyard Dead
Diminished Fifth Records
4.5 / 5