It’s been ten years since the last release by US Sludge/Doom band Deadbird, returning with the delightfully thicc “III: The Forest Within the Tree”. Fans of early 90’s grunge styles will be chuffed with the vibes going on here, it ends up sounding a bit like Nirvana crossed with Conan, perhaps Mastodon with Alice in Chains-like vocals. This is partly thanks to being recorded at Ardent Studios where groups like Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Primal Scream and ZZ Top have recorded.
Starting off with “The Singularity”, an acoustic intro that is bathed in the sounds on wind, there is a familiar Seattle like vocal styling, much like the pairing of Layne Stanley and Jerry Cantrell. The levy then breaks into “Luciferous Heart”, a seven minute flowering epic that kicks off with an unusual timing pulse that can easily be followed but leaves one feeling quite lofty as you follow it. There is a strong focus on the atmosphere, the tone of the guitars are deliciously fuzzy throughout and blossoming with intense riffage, harmonic interplay. Just when it starts to get a bit repetitive, the fuzz gives way to a dynamic downturn briefly with trickling acoustic guitars before entering a huge harmonic part and erupting into a faster paced riff frenzy and bottoming out into a Doomy chorus of rhythmically slow screaming, slowing down even further as the track grinds to a screeching halt.
This leads us into “Heyday”, an eight minute epic that continues the mid paced Grungy verse vibes, abating into a noisy acoustic section with wailing guitars and swells of midrange distortion flowing in and out of the soundstage, receding into a slow, dual lead guitar solo. The album makes great use of its sonic space and soundstage like this, balancing gorgeous repetitive fuzzy sections between faster and ridiculously slow sections with acoustic sections creeping around in various nooks and crannies.
“11:34” picks up the ambiance of “The Singularity” and offers reprieve from the extended track lengths, then going into the heavily brooding “Brought Low”. It is a slow, slow track that is corridored by acoustic guitars and doom choruses that contain my favourite sound of the entire album, which was hard to pick as the tones throughout are extremely good. There’s a trickling, mid range sound that is tingling and itchy. I felt a sense of comfortable unease whenever it swelled in, likely because of the harmonised riffs underlining the sections.
Next is “Bone and Ash” which reminds me a little of Nirvana’s “Floyd the Barber” initially, at least until it taken on its doom persona.
Overall, it’s a great album that would have been more at home in the early 90’s. The usage of repetition, which for the most part is artistic, can be a little grating on the longer tracks but it does emphasise some of the intricacies of the production as a whole such as the live sounding drums and instrument tone choices. As for the listening experience, I feel as though it’s a grower not a shower so to speak, on my third listening I enjoyed it much more and found myself reclining into the atmosphere of the album. Also, the juxtaposition of the vocals are a little jarring at first, switching from the molasses-like cleans to doom howls, but through repeat listening they end up being welcome touches. Deadbird have done very well on this album, and considering that the last time the world heard from them was 2008, they’ve come back more mature and hitting harder than ever.