It came as quite a shock when it was announced early this year that Dallas Toler-Wade had left Nile after 20 years. He had become the band’s de facto frontman, leading its three-headed vocal monster when he wasn’t engaged in guitar duels with Karl Sanders as part of Nile’s uber-technical clamor.
The announcement said he was leaving “to focus on my own plans and recordings.” And while later statements made it obvious there was more to it than that, Toler-Wade had been playing with Narcotic Wasteland as a side band for several years, and they had already released one album. So now that he is able to give the Fayetteville, N.C.-based quartet his full attention, the band’s second album is ready to roll.
Musically, Narcotic Wasteland isn’t that much of a stretch from Nile’s super-fast tech-death, though it is more direct and certainly less ornate or theatrical. There’s no hint of ancient Egyptian influence, inspiration or conceptualizing here, a point that driven home even more definitively by the lyrical themes.
Indeed, as with their debut, Narcotic focuses on the here and now – and the “narcotic” aspect of society. The closing number “Pharma Culture” pretty much sums up Delirium’s focal points: drugs, addiction and big business, and the common denominators therein. Tunes like “Faces of Meth,” “Bleed and Swell,” “You Will Die Alone,” “Husk” and the title track leave little to the imagination.
The band does employ something of a Nile-style triple vocal attack, with Toler-Wade taking the lead and guitarist Ed Rhone and bassist Chris “Lutachrist” Dupre barking and growling at his heels. But here the interplay is less pronounced and dramatic, and seems to be employed more for emphasis than to enhance the narrative.
But enough about what Narcotic’s music is not. What it is is still quite complex and unquestionably vicious death metal that, for the most part, is skillfully composed and executed, something one might expect from a musician of Toler-Wade’s caliber. Driven by Phil Cancilla’s athletic drumming and Toler-Wade and Rhone’s tight, furious riffing, the opening salvo of “Introspective Nightmares,” “Faces of Meth,” “Return To The Underground” and “We Agnostics” zip by in a blur – punctuated by fiery solos and tradeoffs that should keep the shred-heads happy, even if it rarely gets taken to dizzying extremes.
A couple of short interludes – the acoustic “In Memoriam” and piano-tinged “Self Immolation” – help break up the bluster, as does the more deliberate, vintage Metallica-like “Bleed And Swell,” which makes for the most marked departure from Toler-Wade’s past. The thick grooves of “You Will Die Alone” and “Husk” give the back end of the album some extra heft as well, leading into the monumental “Pharma Culture” that finished things off with epic flair.
While its message might be a bit heavy handed, Delirium Tremens does what was necessary to help Toler-Wade put some needed distance between himself and his former band. The similarities are outweighed by the differences, yet the differences aren’t so “different” as to alienate Nile fans. Instead, it gives them another option with which to get their tech-death fix.
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