Dead Meadow – Shivering King and Others

Dead Meadow
Shivering King and Others

Dead Meadow is a lumbering beast of deep heaviosity and dulled synapses. Resembling Blue Cheer or the Blue Oyster Cult at quarter-speed, Dead Meadow is certainly more deliberate than most of the so-called “stoner -rock” groups. They no doubt get lumped in with that clique due to their thick riffs and historical antecedents, but intellectually and musically these guys blow jokes and wannabes like Bad Wizard out of the bongwater. There’s no winking with Dead Meadow, no ironic AD&D-derivative lyrics, no mindless single-entendres; they’re confident enough in their abilities to play serious heavy rock music without any of the easy subpostmodern affectations usually found in this type of stuff.
Shivering King and Others is Dead Meadow’s first record for Matador, and boy, is it a beaut. The stumbling, stuttering rhythm of lead track “I Love You Too” envelops the listener in Dead Meadow’s fantastic (and fantastical) metal, serving notice of the fully-realized greatness that lies within. Shivering King and Others provides a good, constant pummeling that alternates from a blunt yet subdued power to a gentle bludgeoning; even when acoustic guitars pop up, as in “Heaven,” the results are still palpably thick and heavy and can hit you like a ton of Tolkien books. Despite the brute force of the music, however, there’s nothing obvious about Dead Meadow. Frequently staggering, drunk-sounding rhythms, combined with Jason Simon’s smoky haze of a voice (he sings like a cloud), creates a mysterious and somewhat frightful feeling that’s the aural equivalent of being lost in a foreboding fog. Dead Meadow specializes in a creeping dread that often builds up to a metaphoric “revealing of the beast” via Simon’s effects-laden, psychedelic guitar solos. With 12 songs spread out over four sides, this sort of stuff could get a bit overdrawn or boring in less masterful hands; Dead Meadow somehow keeps an iron-fist grip on the listener’s attention with Shivering King and Others, however, and in the process provides us with one of the best heavy rock albums in ages.
To hear quality music in the vein of the first wave of British heavy metal groups is sort of rare. To hear such music that is of as high a quality as Shivering King and Others is far rarer still. To simplify matters, Dead Meadow basically create horror-rock that is far more satisfying and literary than that of Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Alice Cooper, or the Misfits; the latter groups are the Freddies, Jasons, and Leatherfaces to Dead Meadow’s Yog-Sothoth. And everybody knows that a creature that’s “allied to the ultimate animating essence of existence’s whole unbounded sweep” is a shit-ton scarier than some dude with a knife.