This was not an album I was anticipating. It wasn’t even on my radar. In fact, I was just poking around a few holes for something different to review this week when I randomly saw the creepy cover art for Five Easy Lies—Toulouse-Lautrec apparently paid a hooker to pose for him—as well as the name of the band responsible for it, Die Like Gentleman, and was instantly intrigued. This is a healthy, and quite catchy, concoction of sludge, doom and post-hardcore.
The record opens with “Unstoppable,” which charges out of the gate like an anesthetized bull with a fuzzy, heavy, bucking riff. A rhapsodic guitar line comes in over the top before the song dissolves into what is primarily a drums and vocal track (the guitars and bass seem like they’re there only to add atmosphere). Vocalist Adam Alexander has two main vocal affectations, both of which reveal his immense talent: first, he displays his very clear, shout-like singing voice. But later, we see a harsher, almost shrill side come out; Alexander pushes the limits of his voice in creating a more guttural, bark-like roar, while still retaining his ability to hit high notes and ride his natural tremolo. I compare his voice to a very odd marriage of Danzig and Chris Cornell—which should be quite a compliment. “Unstoppable” is a perfect opening track; although it’s the vocals that hook you, the bookends of guitar work are highly promising.
The second track, “Ahrriss the Wizard,” opens with a spooky, noodly guitar line that’s quickly joined by a towering, sludge-filled chord progression for support. Again, around the two-minute mark, the theme of the song drips away to change our focus to another addictive vocal performance. The song builds back up over the next minute to reveal a modification on the theme and some jazzy, “trading fours”-style drum fills. It’s another promising pre-cursor for what is about to come.
“Animals of Romance” opens with the most sultry, stoner-style riff on the entire album. The vocals are darker here, with more emotional cadence on the back-end. The song marks our entry into the head-banging portion of the album; after a number of herky-jerky guitar themes, this track is the most straight ahead rocker of the bunch. Next up comes the shortest track on the album, “Stray Demon,” another banger that hits you with a gaping, thick guitar riff. At one point, Alexander shouts, “No mercy, no forgiveness,” which could be pretty easily applied to both humanity and these riffs. The album closes with “Hidden Switch,” which opens with around a minute and 40 seconds of feedback and distortion before the troops amass to start pounding your eardrums. Things then fly off into a sludgier version of a classic metal sound, complete with harmonized guitar riffs.
Five Easy Lies is the second release from the Portland quartet, following 2013’s Romantic Delusions of Hell. This one’s clearly the stronger, and more cohesive effort of the two, though. It’s a bit of a surprise that Die Like Gentlemen haven’t yet been picked up by a label—particularly with stoner-rock, doom and sludge as en vogue as they are in the current musical landscape. With an album like this, though, that could and should change—look for these guys to make some noise in 2015.