Dead Register

Perhaps it was the gloomy, autumnal cover art of this demo EP that had me thinking, “Ah, just what I don’t want to hear this season, another band doing a poor Katatonia rip-off.”  Don’t peel the bark off my tree please, I’ve been a longtime fan of the Swedish downer rockers, but I usually don’t enjoy anything that claims them as a heavy influence.  Alright, I could offer you Fall of the Leafe as an exception to that rule, though were they really a Katatonia clone?  Hell no, they took that general sound as well as some Amorphis and rocked the shit out of it.  That’s a tale for another Friday morning reading circle though kiddies, so allow me to zero in on the task at hand.

So Atlanta, GA’s Dead Register surprised me by taking the marrow and inspiration for the aforementioned, bipolar Swedish legends back to the 80s where it began.  I was even more taken aback to find that the vocalist/bassist was none other than the always reliable M. Chvasta, whose spastic noise/metal/prog projects Light Pupil Dilate and Palaces were huge hits in this household.  Holy shit man, you really threw a curveball on this one, because this couldn’t be farther from Chvasta’s past work.  Dead Register augmented by bass keyboardist/synth siren Avril Che, and concussionist Chad Williams have a hard-driving, dark n’ brooding sound that recalls the twin bass punishment of Cop Shoot Cop and Godflesh’s most fathomless dirges with pop hooks, vapory ambience and the ethereal songwriting of genre definers The Cure, My Bloody Valentine and Fields of the Nephilim.  Another valid point of reference is Killing Joke before they turned to total shit on Pandemonium.

“Alone” wanders in from the snowstorm on sparse, frost-bitten chords where each final note is wrung out and left to echo off into nothingness.  Whenever the last part of this arrangement fades, a seismic riff buzzes into reality from beyond the corporeal realm; the grinding, anvil-heavy weight is very much in line with Justin K. Broadrick’s landmark work but Che’s spacious, bottom heavy, keyboard accoutrements render it as a groove that floats like a feather instead of plunging with the force of a titanium anchor.  Being familiar with Chvasta’s past work I expected him to start screaming his bloody head off, but shit son, the man’s got a fantastic singing voice!  His melodies are less the low, hurdy gurdy side of goth than they are a ghost light flicker that skips across Williams’ ebbing, constant flux on the toms akin to an eye evading revenant.  M crests on high notes, sometimes on the verge of a desperate scream, but it’s always melodic.  Avril also adds crooning, transparent background vocals to the mix which further haunt the headspace during a dedicated late night listen.  Despite the presence of a dual bass texture, the tuning of Chvasta’s lead is elevated above Che’s grime swimming thrusts, and he probably achieves the higher end guitar-inflected tone (which is especially prominent during the outro licks) through the usage of a Fender Bass IV which is a notable sidearm of one Robert Smith.

Since you’ve already got the razor in hand from track one, “Ordinary” will help you take the first swipe at ending your life.  It practically pushes, nudges and convinces you that suicide is about the only option left on the table.  The pace is slow, like Warning or 40 Watt Sun stunted, yet they serenade you with lucid synths and hymnal, fugue state melodies which contrast starkly with fetid fuzz backgrounds that come from somewhere deep within the permafrost.  A mid-section moment of antimatter, anti-structure doom brings to mind Swans’ seminal work, forcing the tempo into a stupor so sedate it’s like watching those last couple of delicious morphine drops carefully navigating the tube while you stare up at the empty bag.  Too bad all of the nurses were killed in the cold, so there’s little help for your worthless soul.  They could have played it safe by just droning the remainder of the song away, but Chvasta rocks the lead melodies with enough vigor to bring the mood up a notch, while Chad spices the usually tom-fronted drumming with a little added crack n’ sizzle on the snare.  Again, don’t expect to be whipped into a frenetic head-banging bliss…  When I mean rock, I mean the kind that’s been left to do time in a county morgue drawer.

Aggressive staccato riffs kick off closer, “With Sympathies,” giving way to an ether rag wielding Godflesh-vibe that cements itself to the darkwave, 80s goth calm.  It’s probably the heaviest track on the demo.  If the preceding tune was the soundtrack to a five year coma, this song is livelier and the sound of a spunk covered rebirth.  The percussion pounds with hulking, Mesozoic tom drum battery against a turbulent, doubled-up bass foundation.  Numerous texture shifts are employed from fluttering, pop melody to riffs that almost want to adopt a blues groove but can’t seem to get the necessary papers in order (see 6:20) culminating with frayed nerve, noise-rock lead guitar straight from Chris Spencer’s school of hard-knocks.  As much as the music seems to be calling for a good hate the world scream, Chvasta keeps his inner lunatic in check; he pushes his voice to the loftiest breaking points but slinks back down his range, retaining a strong and tuneful sensibility throughout.

This is really fucking good, and I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t expecting big things here.  The cover art is fine and all, but it seemed to communicate that I would be listening to a much different type of band.  Dead Register is excellent at what they do.  If you played me this CD without telling me what era it was from, I guarantee you I would have answered, “’85, and I bet they used to open for Killing Joke and Bauhaus.”  They invoke a feel and aura that not everybody can pick up and play correctly in these times.  Damn good stuff.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
November 14th, 2014


  1. Commented by: drowningincorn

    Nice find. I’m really digging this.

  2. Commented by: Chris S.

    Great review. Haven’t listened to this nor am I familiar with the previous artists but I think I will be checking them out based on this write up.

  3. Commented by: Jason

    Thanks for the good words!

    This is a great EP. They definitely have their own thing going.

  4. Commented by: Juan Manuel Pinto

    Nice review,.it made me curious enough to download the release. You just have to make a little correction: it´s not a Fender Bass IV but a Fender Bass VI

  5. Commented by: Jason

    Thanks for the correction Juan! Hope you dig this, I think you will if you’re into this kind of stuff. It’s really it’s own thing.

    Cheers for pointing out the error in low-end!

  6. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    All these goth band references…probably gonna have to check this out.

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