Written by: The Administrator
When it comes to the simple pleasures associated with the simple scriberly life, front-row access to an artist's evolution over time is one of the most consistently exciting. The artist in question? Ye eagle-eyed readers may recall that this spring, we premiered Eclipse, a conceptual album from a certain progressive Yukonian one-man outfit. I quite enjoyed Rick Massie's ability to seamlessly blend genres in a symphonic landscape, bringing the listener on a series of sonic voyages through dynamic scenery.
But! Eclipse lives in the past. It is now, I am happy to report, a time of year we affectionately refer to as "spooky season." With the change in atmosphere comes an appropriately ominous Rick Massie track. Give "The Dance (of the Dead and Alive)" a well-deserved listen below, and, as always, we'll meet you on the other side!
First things first: despite a thick appliqué of darkness and cobwebb'd gothic angst that doesn't appear in Rick Massie's prior work, experimentation with genre boundaries remains a primary factor in the composition. A crisp-yet-menacing ambient intro builds, and, in good time, bleeds into the blackened doomy fray. Prior to the rolling drums and riffage, "The Dance (of the Dead and Alive)" sounds like the imagined soundtrack to the (terrifying) Halloween excursions through the (equally terrifying) rural neighborhood of my childhood. Once the track is fully unleashed, however, it's clear that much more is afoot in these dark woods. The vocals are gravely and borderline vicious, floating above the angular instrumentation with an uncanny omniscience. But suddenly the aggression breaks, and the familiar prog-rock tendencies bleed through. The remainder of the track follows a similarly unpredictable trajectory: the drums ramp up and the guitar digs in until reaching an inevitable crest, at which point the whole affair dives into new sonic territory, be it horror-soundtrack organ, blackened fury, or a momentarily gentle passage. In the hands of a lesser songwriter, this would all undoubtedly feel unnecessarily chaotic. Here, however, each transition feels natural and necessary to maintain the proggy momentum. All told, I'm excited to see more of this deliberately dark songwriting from Rick Massie in the future.
This track, like many Rick Massie tracks before, practically oozes a certain cinematic narrative flair. Given the obvious focus on Halloween, the spookiness--which would feel campy in any other application--feels quite appropriate. Much like the thrill one gets from gorging on Acid Witch or King Diamond as jack-o-lanterns appear on stoops and October breathes its last breath, the ambiance here is, frankly, quite exhilarating. This is a special time of year, and, as such, demands a certain level of recognition. Indeed, in the words of the artist:
“Generally, my music focuses on messages of positivity, hope and unity even when we are confronted with darkness. This song seems a little bit different at first--it’s darker than most of my music, and is certainly not “happy”. However, it’s a celebration of my favourite time of the year, and the memories I have of spending many days with my Dad, crunching through leaves, smelling woodsmoke coming from nearby houses, and building epic Hallowe’en scenes for the trick-or-treaters to admire. It’s also a celebration of the past--when people believed that Samhain was a time that their loved ones spirits would come back to visit--I’m certain we all have at least one loved one we’d love to visit with again. To hold hands with, and dance together. It may not be possible, but it’s certainly a dream worth celebrating.”
To all ye adults out there: it's more than okay to feel a little bit of that spine-tingling October magic, particularly when taking into consideration the sobering reality we've all faced across this year's spring and summer. If you're in the mood to tap into that age-old sense of fear and wonder, I highly recommend breaking out the Halloween decorations, dimming the lights, and giving "The Dance (of the Dead and Alive)" a spin (or three).
Rick Massie - "The Dance (of the Dead and Alive)" will be released Oct. 23rd. Check it out on bandcamp!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.
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