Imagine a world where Massive attack hook up with Sigur Ros and Mogwai in a live jam room and you have an idea of the dreamy, bass-laden, soporific alternative pop that this band initially present although, like Mogwai, Flyingdeadman are prone to explode into bouts of prolonged guitar abuse where chiming riffs collide with an almost metal precision that simply decimates the listener who has, up until that point, been drifting pleasantly amidst the band’s glorious melodies.
A ten track record, W.E.N is curiously made up of six tracks plus four remixes which enhance various aspects of the original compositions. Unlike much of the post-rock spectrum, flyingdeadman utilise plenty of vocals although it is rare that the lyrics are actually audible with the singer affecting a Sigur Ros-esque drawl which is far from unpleasant and often augments the more gentle moments. Meanwhile the band emphasise a strong massive attack element with trip-hop style drum beats and ambient effects creating an intricate, emphatic dreamscape that occasionally raises its head to explode into glorious life with bursts of guitar stabbing out of the darkness. A prime example of this is the third track, ‘black sun’ (also remixed) which builds slowly from a stately beginning into ever louder cadences that reach speaker-shattering intensity towards the climax. In the hands of a lesser band this may well be the pattern for all the songs, but where flyingdeadman succeed is in their subtle variations on the theme making sure that the album never becomes boring or predictable although it is often claustrophobic, with the beats slowly propelling the churning bass and shimmering guitars towards the single lost voice in the dark.
‘Sunday 12’, the album’s second track, is a particular highlight (and is also remixed to good effect later on in the album) with its smoothly meandering sound and gentle guitars weaving a dream-like texture before the aforementioned ‘black sun’ snaps you back into the present. Still heavy, just not in the traditional sense, there’s an underlying tension within the sound of flyingdeadman that is utterly compelling, like the passive party guest who hides a wicked temper, you’re never quite sure when, or if, the song will explode creating a tension that reigns supreme over the music available here. This is none more clear than on ‘Once again’ which flickers into life ever so slowly and yet before you know it huge riffs are raging over the song and the piece has mutated before your very eyes into a hulking, brooding monster that will undoubtedly sound amazing live. Meanwhile the final original track on the album is fuelled by a massive bass beat that pounds the rhythm into your skull while the guitars chime away in the background before the whole thing rises up into a veritable tsunami of sound that belies its skeletal beginnings.
The remixes, which make up the rest of thre record, are equally worthwhile. Offering up original and intriguing interpretations of the songs, the overall is quality is close to that of the excellent Isis remix project, with artists adding a substantially different spin on the work rather than just unimaginatively adding extra bass. Thus ‘Sunday 12’ is reworked as a grandiose piano-led piece that is perfectly produced and played and sounds almost like a different track. The remix of ‘Black sun’ is equally impressive, emphasising the orchestral elements inherent in the song and offering up a more sombre vision of the band’s music, it is a thought-provoking piece and you wonder why more bands seems so incapable of providing excellent remixes such as these. Elsewhere the slowed-down drum and bass of the ‘Drifting alone’ remix is like Radiohead in a blender and it is probably the least impressive of the remixes on offer thanks to a repetitively looped vocal although the guitars sound immense. Finally ‘it’s flyingdeadman’ is the heaviest thing here, complete with death metal roars and overwhelming guitars.
Overall it’s hard not to be impressed by flyingdeadman. Sure it’s post-rock and therefore has some familiar elements, but so much thought has gone into each and every track and the remixes, thanks to a hugely creative team working on them, are a welcome bonus that really enhance the songs. While the average fan of heavy music may struggle with the vocals, those with a passing interest in the dreamy soundscapes of Sigur Ros and Mogwai will find much to admire here and the band themselves offer plenty of sonic fireworks to keep things exciting. The brooding tension that is cast over much of the disc is well constructed too, with the snap in mood enough to send shivers down the spine. Best played at IMMENSE volume, this is a fantastic record. Enjoy.