A Lower Deep
Released: 2007, Independent
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
A Lower Deep, like Jag Panzer, Cage and Imagika, is a band that Metal-Rules.com as a site has supported for many, many years. When I was first sent A Lower Deep’s sophomore release, PARABLE OF THE THORN, back in the summer of 2004, I was blown away by the band’s unclassifiable mix of dark progressive, thrash and traditional metal. Billy Mullican’s untapped vocal dynamics and Troy Reid’s complex solos and dark, melodic riffs were spellbinding. When TRINITY came along a year later, the band’s songwriting skills showed increased maturity and a nicer flow to the songs. So here we are, almost three years later, and it is once again time to extol the virtues of Alabama’s A Lower Deep on their new album, BLACK MARYS. Mullican, Reid, longtime bassist Tim Umstead and new drummer Anthony Tipton craft yet another musically-rich landscape that twists and turns through expertly-played progressive sections behind Mullican’s ardent lyrics and soaring vocals. BLACK MARYS, like every other release from A Lower Deep, is pure in its artistic vision and unrelenting to trends, which might explain why this band remains unsigned but if bands like Evergrey, Nevermore, Communic and Queensryche tickle your fancy, don’t miss A Lower Deep.
The album’s cover art, eerily reminiscent of an H.R. Giger-style painting, is intriguing, dark and a little puzzling. Hmmm…kind of describes A Lower Deep’s music, as well. Mullican’s voice has long been compared to Nevermore’s Warrel Dane but on the title track and “Bleed,” Mullican incorporates a death metal growl that he has used sparingly on previous records and it just adds one more aspect to this band’s growing arsenal of musical directives. Some multi-tracking of Mullican’s vocals is done on “Hamartia” adding depth and richness to an already powerful instrument and the harmonized intro to “The Narrow Way” sounds like it was taken right out of a choir practice. Reid’s dizzying solos are everywhere here but those on “Facing The Demon” and “Children of Cain” are rather unique. The former’s is played in a subtle but twisted, wah-driven fashion while the latter’s Middle Eastern feel is pure technical bliss. But the coup de grace is delivered on the viciously heavy title track, with Reid shredding like a man possessed. The long and winding progressive leaning of “The Maudlin Child” and the dark, jazzy intro to “Revelation” which later segues into Gothic territory shows A Lower Deep’s more experimental side which the band pulls off flawlessly.
The same critique I’ve had of the last two A Lower Deep releases comes into play on BLACK MARYS, as well. With no song less than five minutes and most averaging over six minutes, these are a bit on the long side. At the same time, A Lower Deep is not a “singles” band, either, and their music cannot really be crammed into a tidy three-minute package. I was a bit surprised when I opened the booklet to BLACK MARYS to find actual photos of the band, as these guys had become almost as mysterious as KISS was in the seventies, eschewing any promo shots or band photos on previous releases. Thankfully, the guys are not hideously disfigured, but it is curious why it took them almost eight years to finally reveal their faces.
BLACK MARYS features better production (handled by Chaz Najjar and mastered by former Testament/Death/Obituary guitarist, James Murphy, this time around), the same brilliant musicianship and enough melancholy melodies to warrant hiding anything sharp. I wish I could say that BLACK MARYS is chock full of musical surprises but it isn’t. And that’s not a bad thing, either. A Lower Deep is hardly AC/DC but now four albums in, you kind of know what to expect and there is something to be said for a band that is intent on honing its sound. Rumor is the band has another new album coming right on the heels of this one, so I will be curious what A Lower Deep has in store, but until then, drink in the captivating aura that comes with BLACK MARYS.
KILLER KUTS: “Bleed,” “Black Marys,” “The Maudlin Child,” “Children of Cain,” “Revelation”