This is the debut from the London based group Million Dead and I guess I didn't expect much when I first listened to this record. I had seen the video for "I Am the Party" and thought I'd give it a listen, and sometimes I think expecting nothing is the best thing.
The album opens on a high note with "Portnography for Cowards" which is one of the better tracks on the record: loud, fast and aggressive, it immediately sets out to prove that this band knows how to rock. This song mixes a good amount of screaming with singing, but without falling into the seemingly cliche feel of "screamo." This song is followed by one of the singles from the album, "Breaking the Back" which is also one of the better tracks on the album. This track shows a more melodic side of the band, including more singing, toned down drumming (from the first track) and a more ambient feel to the guitar-work. It's definitely a good rock song and by this point, I was starting to become really interested in the album.
This is a good rock album especially considering it is their debut, and it definitely exceeded my expectations (which were fairly non-exsistent). I've seen a lot of people draw comparisons between Million Dead and Funeral for a Friend (with whom they are going to tour), which I think is a somewhat acceptable juxtaposition, though I'd say Million Dead has a more straight-up rock feel to them and are probably more melodic. Frank Turner (the lead singer) has a fairly decent vocal range and displays it throughout the record, mixing in some decent screams in with the more predominant singing. They also mix things up somewhat throughout the record which helped add to its replay value and certainly garnered more of my attention. In the middle of the record, we're hit with the title track, "A Song to Ruin," which quite honestly surprised me the first listen through. The song starts off with a 2 minute instrumental section which predominately displays Julia on bass (read: it's very bass-heavy) and has a very laid-back, ambient feel. Turner then comes in, a little more distant this time, singing a tale of isolation. The vocals are excellent on this track: distant, perpetuating the feel of isolation brought on by the words, and maintaining a very ambient, relaxed feel. I really just stopped what I was doing and closed my eyes to listen to this song; you can easily drift away with this one on. Definitely a stand-out here.
After this we're brought back to the standard rock feel of their songs. The second half of the record didn't strike me as much as the first, but none of the songs are necessarily bad. The last track, "The Rise and the Fall" I enjoyed. It's aggressive while melodic with good vocals sung and screamed over a wall of noise created by Julia and Cameron Dean. It then goes on instrumentally repeating over and over with some guitarwork over it till the end of the song over 14 minutes later (think the trace-like feel of the end of "Goodbye Sky Harbor" but with more distortion).
Overall this was quite a surprise. They seem to give a unique style to their music while mixing up their style a bit throughtout the record. Ben Dawson (the drummer) puts on a god performance throughout the record as does the guitarist (Dean). Though there is nothing ground-breaking in Turner's vocals, I found myself liking his voice and came back for more. The lyrics to the songs are nothing mind-blowing, but they are fairly decent and well thought-out (and thankfully they don't spend their time whining over things). Overall it's a good rock record with its moments. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. If you're into Funeral for a Friend or anything similar, give it a try. And this is worth a listen for anyone who wants some fresh rock music.
Stand-out tracks: "Pornography for Cowards," "I Am the Party," "A Song to Ruin"