Though there’s nary a crunchy riff or occult reference to be found on Dead Man’s second album, Euphoria, it’s bound to be embraced by retro-minded metal fans. Not the white-hightopped neo-thrash kids or Maiden-worshipping 40-somethings, mind you — we’re talking the dudes that dig deep into metal’s prehistoric commingling with blues-rock and prog and think Black Sabbath peaked with their debut.
Like Swedish brethren Witchcraft (also from Örebro) and Graveyard, Dead Man look to the hard rockin’ proto-doom of the late ’60s and early ’70s for inspiration. They stop short of calling bullshit on the hippie dream, though, which was a necessary step in the development of metal — flower-child idealism still courses through “I Must Be Blind” and “Pinch of Salt,” both shambling Grateful Dead jams replete with lap steel, acoustic guitars, ragged harmonies and flutes. In the fiddle-aided folk and sweet refrain (“The softness in a smile/ Casts the sunlight on my bitter frown”) of “Footsteps,” the Örebro Ren Fair has found its anthem.
Dead Man hit their stride when they turn their backs on the light, especially on the creepy “Electric Funeral” motif that opens “The Wheel,” or the tritone-based riff in “Rest in Peace” that casts a dark pall on the surrounding pagan jazz. While not metal-grade heavy, it’s during these moments that Euphoria’s folk-prog-rock patchwork threatens to burst apart and lurch away from pastiche toward something darker and more vital. Dead Man’s shivering lead vocalists stay just this side of evil, though, and their textures always return to pastoral psychedelia.
If the fruitiness of Euphoria’s plentiful Rusted Root moments is a little disarming, Dead Man’s earnestness in re-creating the range of untrendy genres that they do saves the album. From the analog warmth of the recording to the totally bitchin’, vintage tom sound, Euphoria doesn’t just sound inspired by the more adventurous folk-rock of the late 60s — it sounds like it could have been released back then, too, and unearthed four decades later to remind us of a time when flutes and riffs could coexist and there was no such thing as irony.