Call it stereotypical, but you hear a band called The Dead XIII, one might immediately think “scary metal goths”. And to be fair, you wouldn’t be a million miles off the mark. The horror metal band from Manchester might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like your brew black and slightly on the metallic side, then these boys are the way forward. Fresh off The British Horror Story tour with Ashestoangels and Farewell, My Love, The Dead XIII release their debut album Catacombs, which is honestly a real explosion onto the music scene.
Kurt Blackshard provides raw vocals to the chillingly haunting lyrics, as they take us on a journey through the darker side of reality in true gothic fashion. Symon Strange in particular has to be commended for his artistic synth skills, which brings extra depth and a unique sound to The Dead XIII.
The problem with some heavier bands is that you are greeted with a wall of noise that is indistinctive and unpleasant to listen to, but The Dead XIII have somehow managed to crack this code. Their combination of hardcore guitar solos, dark and infectious lyrics polished off with a synth so melodic and refined, it leaves you questioning just how five Northern lads have created such musical brilliance. They could have been another run of the mill, punk/metal mosher band, but The Dead XIII are well on their way to getting themselves noticed. It is as if they are screaming: “This is who we are and this is what we do. Take us or hate us.”
Frostbite is a real headbanger, a truly epic metal classic that you can imagine being incredible played live. The chorus is ridiculously contagious and Strange’s synths send literal chills across your skin. We are also introduced to Ste Mahoney’s incredible guitar skills, thus completing the multi-talented package of The Dead XIII. This is a song you won’t forget in a hurry.
The Dead XIII also show that they aren’t afraid to take risks, particularly in the titular track Catacombs, as the latter part of the song slows into a melodic guitar riff. For some metal bands, it is difficult to strike this balance without losing the sense of fear or darkness, but Blackshard’s vocals keep you under his spell. It’s almost like he has sunk his teeth into you at the first song, and the venom has spread. There is no turning back and you won’t want to.
An echoing toll of Big Ben and an equally chilling demonic voice greet you at The Greatest Mistake, returning in Can’t Escape the Grave which only adds to the sense of foreboding and doom. If this was the intended effect then it is working, it chills you to the core. The Dead XIII are nothing but traditional in the art of horror metal.
Lay Siege to Hell is another noteworthy track, particularly for the combination of synth and guitar melodies coming together to make a extremely catchy yet hardcore rhythm. The album ends beautifully with Apothesis, even though it takes a while to pick up tempo, it is completely worth the wait. To be honest, it would be quite easy to write an essay telling you how good each song is, but to save time you might as well go listen to them and find out for yourself.
The Dead XIII remain unsigned, which is baffling to say the least. They have real talent and for a band that probably prefers the comforts of darkness, they have no trouble staying in the spotlight. There may well be thirteen ways to die, but this album isn’t one of them.
Catacombs is available through The Dead XIII‘s website.