Canadian dance-punk duo Death From Above have now been at it for seventeen years. Following their debut LP ‘You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine’ back in 2004, they put the project on indefinite hiatus, each pursuing other projects with the odd DFA live show thrown in. 2011 saw the band’s reformation, leading to the long-anticipated sophomore record ‘The Physical World’ arriving in 2014.
Now, taking a conventional album release window in their stride, Jesse Keeler (bass, keys) and Sebastien Grainger (vocals, drums) hit us with their third long-player ‘Outrage! Is Now’, which is consequently, a confident effort to grace us with their greatest work yet. Unfortunately, there are some apparent drops in songwriting quality.
Death From Above’s debut was a raw and unkempt beast. Belters included the ferocious opener ‘Turn It Out’ and the highly danceable ‘Romantic Rights’, both ultimately becoming staple hits for the duo. Fast forward ten years to the sophomore record and you’d find that DFA’s sound was still intact, yet with a slight polish production-wise. ‘Outrage! Is Now’ sees the duo build upon the polished production three-fold. It is their catchiest and most hook-filled record yet.
Brazen opener ‘Nomad’ kicks the album off with an almighty satisfying bang. The galloping main guitar refrain cites the simplest of Tony Iommi’s riffing whilst Grainger’s hella-bulky drums add sweetly to the swaggerful grooves. A triumphant introduction indeed.
Lead single ‘Freeze Me’ recalls the duo’s strong influences from dance/EDM, with its main keyboard melody doing its best to harbour the charm of a summer pop hit. Along with Grainger’s chorus vocal and Keeler’s distorted bass contrasts, this one wouldn’t sound out of place on the mainstream charts. Similarly, the title track carries certain Prodigy/Massive Attack infusions, and with its bridge channeling that of a dancey-punk-western score. Yeah that’s right.
Death From Above turn the “swag” up to 11 on ‘Caught Up’, with its abundance of sludgy riffing and a perfect partnership of handclaps/percussion. A highlight for sure, this cut does share similarities with some of Royal Blood’s better material. Amusing, given the obvious influence DFA had on Royal Blood, yet Keeler claimed he hadn’t heard their newest album yet.
It has to be stated that the songwriting does get iffy in places, namely ‘Never Swim Alone’. Whilst instrumentally serviceable, Grainger’s rap-verse style of vocals and lyricism comes off as amateurish and slightly painful to endure. The downtempo, elevator-style interlude at the back-end of this cut is most certainly the most noteworthy part of this track.
Towards the latter half of the tracklist, DFA certainly get weird on a few cuts. ‘Moonlight’ features a dark-metal sound and Sisters of Mercy-esque vocals. It’s certainly a peculiar offering from the band, given their back catalogue and established sonicality. From a duo with a dynamic, ever-evolving sound, ‘Statues’, one of the longer cuts, seems to plod along for four-minutes with not much variation or development. Moreover, ‘All I C Is U & Me’ feels like filler; it’s truly the cut with the weakest impact. Closing track ‘Holy Books’ channels some of the debut’s raw punk attitude, culminating in a pleasantly funky Queen-esque bridge with its light piano flurries.
‘Outrage! Is Now’ is an album with scattered brilliance. Most of it happens within the first four tracks. From then on, quality is certainly spotty, however there are a couple more cuts that prove worthwhile later on. It’s safe to say, this record will certainly be divisive amongst hardcore fans of the band and newer, more mainstream rock audiences.
‘Outrage! Is Now’ is out September 8 via Last Gang Records.