I think I’m a good person most of the time. I actually take pride in the fact that, unless you kill a member of my family, I will be nice to you and give you the benefit of the doubt. I don’t like to insult people. I really don’t, so I will put this lightly. Death by Stereo’s new record, Into the Valley of Death, did not sit well with me.
Death by Stereo, the southern California punk/hardcore band formed in 1998, has good intent. They try to mix it up by shoving a lot of random elements, from melodic singing to metal-inspired guitar solos, into their album, an apparent attempt to integrate the punk, hardcore and metal scenes in one take. With songs spewing about child-molesting priests and America (“a veil over my eyes — this fucking country won’t let me see”) and amusing, extended song titles like “I wouldn’t piss in your ear if your brain was on fire,” the content is solid and, in an angry pissed-off sort of way, meaningful. But it doesn’t click.
The instruments are not that bad. Yes, the random split-second guitar solos throughout the album sound out of place, like they were randomly thrown in so Death by Stereo could claim a little metal influence. Yes, the slow, melancholy instrumentals that begin “The Plague,” “Wasted Words” and “Unstoppable” unfortunately remind me whiny goth-punk bands like A.F.I. But, overall, the guitar, drums, and bass combine to create a harsh but rhythmic noise. The singing is where most of my problems with the album lie.
The Misfits are a great fucking band. Please do not strive to imitate them. The deep Misfits-esque echo that singer Efrem Schulz attempts to tunefully sing in when he’s not screaming just doesn’t work. In fact, I can feel my lips creep back and eyes begin to squint into a tiny cringe when he parts from his fast, hardcore voice to … that. A perfectly good hardcore singer attempting to actually sing would be like a white-boy rapper performing a soft-tuned melody dedicated to his little girl in an attempt to experiment after his explosive debut. Wait a second …
Death by Stereo just needs a new formula to put the vastly clashing punk, hardcore and metal sounds at peace with one another. They need bits and pieces of each genre that can be molded together without creating a harsh screech of mixed-up noise. They’re close, but don’t quite have it. They have a message, but what good is a message when there lacks a musical mode to get it across?