The Under-the-Radar Supergroup
The “supergroup” is a concept that music fans tend to overlook. The all-star teams of the Traveling Wilburys, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave had success within their fields, but rarely are they considered superior to their mother groups. So what happens when a supergroup forms, comprised of hardcore and punk veterans who never had any mainstream success to begin with? Dead Heavens are this lovechild. This outfit features members from hardcore groups like Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today, metal group White Zombie and indie group Cults. And the complex thing about Dead Heavens is that they mostly play a garage band style of blues rock, something completely different from anything these members had previously done.
On their debut record, Whatever Witch You Are, Dead Heavens venture into a territory unbeknownst to their original fans and create something special. It resembles classic acts such as Black Sabbath and Creedence Clearwater Revival, while also taking from new acts like Parquet Courts and Car Seat Headrest. In the initial track after the instrumental opening, “Basic Cable,” singer Walter Schreifels’s garage rock-style vocals make him sound like Audioslave-era Chris Cornell. “Away from the Speed” has an infectious guitar riff and one of the best solos of 2017. The drums from Drew Thomas are also noteworthy for being surf-like at one point and then, during the interlude, building up into a high-energy climax.
“Bad Luck Child” takes its influence from classic psychedelic ’60s bands and adds the garage lo-fi sound that is key to Whatever Witch You Are‘s success. It is a great song that proves that this album is constantly changing and adjusting styles as it goes on. For example, “Adderall Highway” takes a garage rock song and adds psychedelic elements like noise and reverb that make it sound like an early Tame Impala work, at times. The difference here is that the unique voice of Schreifels strengthens the song even further.
The eight-minute epic of “Gold Tooth” makes the record more intricate. The song’s highlights are the guitar solos mixed with harmonized vocals and melodies. The album closer, “Experience,” is haunting in its initial slow pace. It is a nice come-down from the energetic hard rock of songs past, allowing the listener time to ponder.
Whatever Witch You Are is successful in paying tribute to the acts that inspired these musicians over their lifetimes, while also showing the talent and originality of Dead Heavens’ members. The psychedelic attributes that exist on the album are not overbearing to the point that it is hard to concentrate on the music; they merely add a distorted tone to these well-written tracks. Yet, the heart and soul of this LP can be found in the instrumental work from guitarists Schreifels and Paul Kostabi. All in all, on Whatever Witch You Are, Dead Heavens show how a supergroup can successfully experiment with new genres.