Lee Dorrian – vocals
Leo Smee – bass
With the Dead – Love From With the Dead
Doom is all around us. The optimism of a new millennium has steadily disintegrated. The light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a burning tower block and the powers-that-be are dancing in the smouldering ruins. Humanity is eating itself and we’re all terminally fucked. As a result, it makes perfect sense that the emergence of British doom metal mavens With The Dead would strike a dissonant chord with so many people. Formed in 2014 by former Cathedral/Napalm Death frontman and Rise Above Records boss Lee Dorrian and ex-Electric Wizard/Ramesses bassist/guitarist Tim Bagshaw, the band coalesced in a monetary burst of spontaneity and shared fury, resulting in the release of their eponymous debut album in 2015: one of that year’s most widely acclaimed releases and a welcome shot in the arm for fans of merciless, unrelenting sonic despair.
“We were very happy with the way the first album was received,” says Lee. “To be honest, there were no real expectations with the first LP. It’s hard to explain. We just got together and did it. There was no big anticipation. We knew it was going to be well received by certain people, just because of the sheer heaviness of it, but we didn’t think it would get the reaction it did. It sold really well and got a good response all around. It came together so strangely and so fast. We hadn’t gone round, sweating in the clubs, although we’ve all done that previously. The record came out on Rise Above so it was easy and there were no demands from anyone except ourselves. The important thing is, we didn’t want it to be seen as some novelty project band.”
Hell-bent on staking a further claim to be doom metal’s most intense and remorseless practitioners, With The Dead have now completed work on their second album, Love From With The Dead. Comprising tracks recorded during two separate sessions with celebrated studio guru Jaime Gomez Arellano, the new material represents the first fruits of the band’s recently retooled line-up. Joining Lee and Tim are bassist Leo Smee and drummer Alex Thomas, who replaces the departed Mark Greening. As Lee explains, the band’s new incarnation generated great chemistry from the start.
“Tim came over from New Jersey, where he still lives, and we booked four nights’ rehearsals with Leo and Alex to see how it was going to work. Literally, on the first night, they had the whole set nailed within three or four hours. It sounded better than ever before, too. So the next three nights were pointless and we didn’t need them, so we spent the time going over ideas for new songs and by the end we had four brand new songs. It was crazy. Then we thought ‘While Tim’s over, let’s go in the studio and record them…’ Luckily, Gomez was free and we went over to his studio and recorded the four new tracks, they’re the last four on the album, and it was all done just like that. The other three tracks were recorded nearly a year later, again with just one night’s rehearsal. It was all done super quick.”
For those who flinched at the sheer, unforgiving brutality of With The Dead’s first record, the songs on Love From With The Dead are liable to cause major emotional trauma. Darker, denser, more despondent and sickeningly heavy in numerous senses of the word, this is an album that re-establishes doom as a genre that embraces the extreme and not just some cosy, nostalgic reimagining of the early ‘70s. From opener Isolation’s slithering howl of torment and the crushing, schizophrenic barrage of Egyptian Tomb through to the expansive, drone-driven horrors of the closing CV1 (a mournful lament to Lee Dorrian’s home city of Coventry that features a guest appearance by home-town comrade and electro-noise maverick Russell Haswell), Love From With The Dead grimly extinguishes the light of hope and hammers home the hatred and futility that plagues our brief and brittle lives.
“The thinking was that the first LP was meant to be the heaviest we could possibly make, but then what do you next?” Lee muses. “Well, the only thing you can do is make the next one even heavier. So that was the ambition and the intention, to make it even more crushing. But to be able to do that you have to be crushed yourself. This last couple of years have been quite soul-destroying. There’s been a lot of personal shit going on, and during this whole process so much fucking bad shit has happened in my personal life and other people’s personal lives. Everything you hear on this LP, the angst is very real. I’ve never felt so disillusioned with life and the world around me, not since the first Cathedral album!”
Irrefutable evidence that With The Dead are a formidable and substantial proposition, the quartet’s second album could hardly provide a more apposite soundtrack to the deeply fucked up and irrevocably dysfunctional state of the world in 2017. Both a fine example of the simple, savage power of the riff and an authentic outpouring of anger, bitterness, bile and vivid existential dread, it is the living, breathing, screaming embodiment of heaviness itself. Cometh the hour, cometh the bringers of doom…
“I’m 50 next year and you’re supposed to mellow out when you get older, but why?” Lee asks. “I don’t feel like mellowing out. The world’s getting worse, the atmosphere is getting heavier, people treat each other like shit and there’s so much negativity, how are you supposed to chill out when all that’s going on? I’m in a privileged position to be able to be in a band like this, so why fuck around? The band’s called With The Dead and it’s a doom band, why would you want to mellow out? It’s got to be pure nihilism or nothing.”
Dom Lawson, July 2017.