The Death of Us – When Planets Align (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I can’t vouch for the planets but one listen to The Death of Us and it becomes clear that so many genres, styles and sounds garnered for across various eras and cultural are certainly being aligned here. Any band which calls both Los Angeles and Bogota home, obviously starts with an interesting sonic DNA, but their sound is much bigger than that. It takes in rock licks, proggy smarts and metal moves at one extreme, at the other, drifting soulfulness, bluesy cool and exotic world sounds.

And as well as drawing together myriad sounds, songwriters Juan Lizarazo and Mark Nguyen, the driving force and songwriters of the band, are smart enough to know that collaborations and contribution with other creative minds is the way to really ensure new sounds and ideas are constantly surging through their songs. And to this end a number of guest singers and producers help keep everything fresh.

The title track kicks things off, a slow groover in the form of a rock duet between Gabe Kubanda and Shalini Varghese, slowly building in weight and wonder, scaling lofty sonic crescendos and hollowing out lulling interludes along the way. It’s rock, for sure, but it is epic and dramatic without resulting to the usual cheap tricks and mundane musical moves that the genre seems often to opt for. It’s cleverer than that. Much cleverer.

Validation which follows neatly highlights the breadth and scope of the music, opting for high-octane, funky grooves and smooth soulful passages, alternating between hitting the high notes and hitting the heart and soul of the listener. The same guest vocalist, the wonderfully named Boogiewhip, gives Redemption its sultry tones and Something Wasn’t There its psychedelic feel and Stepping Stone sees Diego Garcia mix alt-country styles with tempered and understated rock and roll.

It’s a great collection of songs, one which reminds us that rules are there to be broken, well, musical boundaries are there to be hopped over, knocked down and generally ignored, at least. Music isn’t something to be neatly compartmentalised, boxed up and labelled, the best music happens where genres mix and match and merge and meld and marinade, where existing styles swirl together to create new forms. The Death of Us is the sound of all of that happening and in doing so is the perfect balance of familiarity and freshness,of cult and commerciality, of comfort zones and exploration, of nods to the past and a rush to embrace the future.

You can’t really ask much more out of music can you?

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