Compelling, dynamic, and entirely unique, Death Spells’ debut album is an explosive addition to Frank Iero’s growing pile of experimental projects.
Since the My Chemical Romance split in 2013, former rhythm guitarist Frank Iero has been no stranger to experimenting with his sound. Various projects such as LeATHERMOUTH and funkier Frnkiero andthe Patience have shown that he is capable of much more than the emo ballads My Chemical Romance fans had come to know and love, and is unafraid to take inspiration from the punk and hardcore scene.
Death Spells, much like frnkiero andthe patience (which gave birth to a stylised punk album, ‘Stomachaches’) appears to be less of a band and more an experiment. Along with LeATHERMOUTH member James Dewees, Iero mixes hardcore and electronic elements to create a debut album that pushes the boundaries of both genres.
‘Nothing Above, Nothing Below’ is a discordant, reverberating racket that thrusts its listeners unrelentingly into the experience of itself, its force creating a dynamic and compelling listen. The opening track, ‘diluted’, is somewhat unsettling, a poetic spoken word accompanied by subtle electronic sounds that give the impression of a sermon. Indeed, the vocals are almost prayer-like, the opening note akin to the ringing of a church-bell. In creating an atmosphere in which the listener feels it is inappropriate to even speak aloud, the next track (‘why is love so disastrous?’) is an explosive shock to the senses, setting the scene for the rest of the album, which uses Iero’s vocals where the scream of an electric guitar would usually be found.
The use of digital instruments instead of the more traditional kind is unusual, and it would not be difficult to assume that the heavier rock elements to the music would be lost amidst thumping electronic beats. This is, however, definitely not the case. Death Spells manage to craft an alternative sound using harsh, glitchy electronics which switch from a foot-tapping rhythm to a wave of noise which appears to serve the purpose of enveloping the listener completely.
Much like Iero’s previous projects, ‘Nothing Above, Nothing Below’ is written entirely for the artists. Frank Iero is not writing to appeal to the fans still trailing behind him after My Chemical Romance, even though he could undoubtedly make more than a healthy living doing so. Instead, he appears to flicker between projects when it suits him, and with this album the impression is given that if some tracks seem not to work, it is because they aren’t supposed to. Death Spells did not create a track out of step-by-step hypnosis (‘hypnotic spells’) because they thought it would sell out stadiums, they created it because they wanted to. This approach to music means the entire album has an almost liberated feel to it- two people making art in its purest form- and allows the listener to get lost in a new experience that is both exciting and occasionally unsettling.
‘Nothing Above, Nothing Below’ is out now via Hassle Records.
This Death Spells article was written by Ezra Woodger, a GIGsoup contributor