DZ Deathrays – Positive Rising: Part 1
Released: August 30th, 2019
Shane Parsons // Vocals & Guitar
Simon Ridley // Drums
Lachlan Ewbank // Lead Guitar & Backup Vocals
Unless you’ve been living under a very heavy rock for the last few years, you no doubt would be at least passingly familiar with the buzzsaw-and-beats maelstrom that is DZ Deathrays. For sporting a comparatively minuscule roster of players — until recently just 2 — they’ve mastered this gigantic wall of sound (hey, that’s this publication!) that feels much more like a cast of thousands. So when they informed me earlier in the year while catching up at Party in The Paddock that the new record was coming our way, I could barely contain the excitement.
For new players, some background. DZ Deathrays (DZ for short — their old name) are basically known for their ability to translate a raucous, back alley house party onto wax, capturing the joyous “I don’t give a shit” waves of positivity that such an environment washes over you. In part, this is what drove the huge success of their previous offering, the aptly-named Bloody Lovely, hot on the heels of singles ‘Like People’ and ‘Shred for Summer’. With that in mind, I guess the only question that has to be asked is if Positive Rising: Part 1 captures that same magic?
I know that I’ve said it before, but with every release, common motifs remain while the prickly edges of the sound become slightly softer thanks to new techniques. The overall effect is making the whole affair easier to swallow for the less anointed of listeners by way of ensuring that nosebleeds from buzzed-out riffs are largely restricted to the mosh pit. The production quality increases by leaps and bounds every time and makes the overall appeal much more palatable for the less deranged. Sludge is definitely still sludge, it’s just spiked with a little sparkle; a je ne sais quoi that can only come with the experience of multiple trips to the studio.
Seemingly, part of what drove the intent behind the album was what could be seen as a coming of age — a maturation that was almost by necessity given how busy they’ve been. For the last decade, they’ve cranked out literally hundreds of shows, across every continent that isn’t Antarctica (I checked; they were sad I reminded them), working as hard as any outfit currently playing. As you can imagine, delivering that level of intensity night after night is likely pretty exhausting. Positive Rising, then, is something of an exercise in relaxation for the band — now featuring long-time collaborator Lachlan Ewbank as a permanent fixture for the first time.
Given that there’s a third player involved, it has lead to fertile ground for trying new things, ‘purple patch’ of new ideas. New ideas like, say, releasing a double album in 2019. That’s no misprint; the ‘Part 1’ in the album’s title is literal. As has pretty much always been the case for the boys, the members all living in different cities meant writing was accomplished by sending ideas back and forth across Messenger and tweaking on riffs and words. Eventually that saw them at the same old, ‘probably haunted’ house in Yass to flesh out the tunes, for what they’ve described as, “basically sit[ting] around writing doom-rock riffs.”
But like any well-seasoned rock band, they ended up somewhere much further from home for recording: a very un-Yass-like Los Angeles, working with gun producer, Miro Mackie. According to the band, the decision to go there ‘just felt right’ because ‘so many of [their] favourite bands have gone there to record’. Fitting, then, for a band who has rolled from strength to strength in the last few years.
When I spoke to them earlier in the year, they suggested that this release would be somewhat of a deviation from where they’d been recently, taking things to a wider set of styles than ever before. They described it as “a little bit punk, some soft, some slow,” a description that seems pretty apt. They’ve gone on record and said that this one was deliberately new ground: “We didn’t even take any gear, I think we took like, a guitar… maybe some pedals. So we got there and kind of started from scratch, which is what we wanted to do. Shake things up for ourselves.” And it shows.
Where previous offerings had carried with them a certain baggage associated with trying to have wall-to-wall house party bangers, this time out, it appears there’s been a dramatic shift to allowing the album function as its own quantity separated from the world of live music — for pretty much the first time, you can describe this as a genuine recording exercise. What I mean by that is there’s more room for movement that’s arisen from an expanded roster, and a greater focus on exploring the recording process itself and the facilities it delivers. There’s a wider range of instruments, a wider range of styles, and a whole depth of sound that had previously been AWOL.
From the moments that the gloom-doom-and-boom opener ‘Hi Everyone’ first launches you into the record, it’s apparent that the boys aren’t here to mess around. They strafe across the possible soundscapes the new approach offers, from the aforementioned punk with ‘Still No Change’, the disaffected thrash of lead single, ‘IN-TO-IT’, and the heavy, riff-laden attack of ‘Year of the Dog’. There’s a lot here to unpack, stylistically and sonically.
For casual listeners, this is an interesting one. On one hand, there’s a huge diversity of sounds which I suppose offers more opportunity to find yourself a flavour. But on the other hand, one has to ask if this was merely a holiday away from the ‘old’ way of doing things, or the definitive direction moving forward? Old fans will likely find themselves right at home because all of the old hallmarks that made them sound great are present.
There’s not much to dislike here. I suppose the only thing left to do now is await the arrival of Positive Rising: Part 2 when it’s finished being recorded later this year.
DZ Deathrays – POSITIVE RISING: PART 1 tracklisting
- Hi Everyone
- Still No Change
- A Lot To Lose
- Nightmare Wrecker
- Year Of The Dog (feat. Matt Caughthran)
- Silver Lining