Dead or Alive (The BassLION’s Obsession) (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The lion may be king of the Jungle but The BassLION is definitely king of the Drum ’n’Bass! Jungle, the musical style not the impassable forest regions from which it takes its name, might tell us a lot about where the modern D’n’B sound has come from but songs such as Dead or Alive are defiantly signposts to where it is going. Every movement needs someone to lead the charge, someone to leave the safety of the trenches and head into the hostile territory of no-man’s land, someone to carry the flag and use it to claim now ground. 5G4B is fast becoming that sonic rallying point.

It’s very easy to keep your head down and play it safe but where does that get you? Literally no-where. Battles are won by taking risks, medals earned through acts of valour, revolutions won by storming the barricades. Dead or Alive is the sound of those barricades being stormed, defensive positions being over run, new boundaries being drawn. This. Is. War!

Okay, I might have got a bit carried away there but I’ll be the first to admit that music isn’t a matter of life and death…it’s much more important than that. 

Dead or Alive has all the hallmarks of 5G4B’s broad sonic pallet, dense textures of clubland culture, sucker-punch beats and salvo’s of vocals, from hard-edge street raps to more soaring and soulful harmonies. There are deft and almost delicate piano notes shining through the techno-darkness, drifting electronica oozing through the spaces between hard-edged structures and all manner of weight-building sonics to add muscle. And through all of this he weaves tension and terror…. “Dead or alive you are coming with me?”… that’s hardly an invitation to a spot of fine dining in the upper echelons of society. It’s more about…well, it doesn’t bear thinking about it, but let’s just say that if this ended up as the score to a film, it would have been to one made by George Romero, or one still to be made by Rob Zombie.

And even though the song kicks off in a taut and claustrophobic fashion, it still finds somewhere to go dynamically and by the half-way point it has kicked up a gear into a full on drum ’n’ bass beat barrage, is pressing down ever harder on your consciousness and it seems to have set up an unholy duet between a street soul-singer and serial killer! 

As always, 5G4B offers us not just a song but an experience, a sonic house of horrors which is thrilling, edgy, challenging, inventive, unique and, at times, terrifying. But just like all such rides you emerge blinking into the light laughing both through a feeling of euphoria and a slight sense of release but such is the addictive nature of the music that you only stop there long enough to get your bearings before pressing play again and jumping right back on.

Terrific…in every sense of the word.

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