Screaming Dead are back with a new release as of this past September and a new single released last month. Being a fan, I will of course suggest that everyone buy a copy of it all, but I’ve drunkenly convinced myself that I can be objective so here we go.
First thing to note here: these are all re-workings of tracks from the band’s career, drawing from the classic releases “Children of the Boneyard Stones” and “Bring Out Yer Dead”. The new single available on bandcamp, entitled “Pretty Mess”, has a much more 70s glam/punk tone to it.
This bears a side-note. There was SO FUCKING MUCH amazing creativity in the early deathrock/horrorpunk/dark/anarcho scene. Bands were unabashedly diverse and willing to push the envelope of expression by understanding the limits of recording tech, so they went with it and found cool sounds in the cracks and grime. Lo-fi recordings of reverbed out vocals and tom-heavy manic drumming makes me inexplicably happy, so Screaming Dead are right up my alley. Their catalog is very worth delving into because they are morbid, gloomy and bloody without dropping into schlock or silly tropes. The lowest points in their catalog are still better than most bands can maintain at, so do yourself a favor and take it all in. Anyways, on to the task at hand…
It’s fascinating to see a band revisit it’s back-catalog and experiment with the delivery. These recordings are MUCH more clear, given the 40 years of progress in studio gear. This lends itself to a bit of nuance in that we lose the “warmth” and dense fidelity of 80s recordings but the band handles the task of updating their sound masterfully. Don’t misunderstand, they are definitely still a punk band, and a snarling one that can somehow thread in a proper gothic atmosphere while chanting sing-a-long choruses about vampires and armies of the dead. The song “Damned Generation”, for example, is a bit slower from the “Children of the Boneyard Stones” version but sacrificing none of the original’s power. The lyrics are much more clear (always a good-natured gripe of mine on early punk/goth recordings). The tracks “Necroaria” and “20th Century Vampire” are most likely to be familiar to casual listeners, joined with “Damned Generation” (of which you can find some surprisingly well-preserved 80s TV footage of them performing on youtube), “Night Creatures” and their cover of “Paint It Black”. The EP starts with a ferocious snare roll kicking off their classic “Necroaria”, injected with fresh energy and a healthy dose of attitude. The whole recording is laiden with bits of added riffing on guitar and small details, giving it an vibe like a bit of improvising during a live gig. One detail that gets buried in discussion of early punk bands is that a lot of them were willing to throw in short guitar riffs if the ADDED to the song, as these examples do. The original recordings showed a willingness to branch out and reject limitations from the “Three chords only tmeplate” mentality, mixing in atmospherics like piano and saxophone with guitar melodies. That same spirit is preserved, and the songs shine brighter for the added hint of complexity.
If anything, this just leaves me wishing the release could be longer. I would love to hear updated experimentation with “A Dream Of Yesterday” or “Free With The Dead.” Screaming Dead are a band with such a unique and engaging catalog. In the meanwhile, they’ve also released the new single Pretty Mess as a split single with The Wraith (who cover UK Subs “Warhead”). Check out both releases on bandcamp and if you’ve not before, treat yourself by delving into this truly original band’s history.