Death the Leveller, II, Review

Death The Leveller is an Irish doom metal band that has found the perfect name to describe the vibe and turn of its music. Clear, resonant vocals travel over the solid ground of heavy guitars and steadying percussion to convey elegantly the profound message of mortality.

The name of the band comes from a poem (published in 1646) with the same title written by James Shirley, an English dramatist. Shirley tells us in the poem what we already know but we like to pretend isn’t true: death will claim us all, and in that sense, we are all the same. Death is the great leveler. This theme is fertile ground to plow for a doom metal band.

In some ways, Death the Leveller is a continuation of the band Mael Mórdha, from which three members of the current line-up came: Dave Murphy (bass), Shane Cahill (drums), and Gerry Clince (guitars). Denis Dowling joined on vocals, and the band released its first album, I, through Journey’s End Records in 2017. Although it is referred to as an EP, the four songs on I total almost 40 minutes and that makes a full-length release in my book. Compared to the last Mael Mórdha release, I was more somber, more ponderous, and had no whistle. The thematic focus has tightened, too, and the attitude engendered by the name of the new band showed through on all the tracks.

The new release, II (Cruz Del Sur Music, 2020), is an expansion of the ideas from the formative release. Soaked with melancholy, the songs have the sense of epic ballads and the stories of loss and tragedy. This is not folk metal in any way, though. It is heavier. It is doom. The first song, “The Hunt Eternal,” sees life as an endless hunt where everyone plays a part: Are you predator or prey? This notion is fundamentally human. What the song brings out is the truth that the hunter/hunted, predator/prey relationship is also animalistic, and the proposition that this conflict is eternal. The music gave me a deep sense of solitude which is a juxtaposition to the universal nature of the roles – we all share in the situation and at the same time we are all alone. Primed by the opener, the second song, “The Golden Bough,” named after the famous mystical book, carries you away into the ether in the first half then blasts you with lightning in the second when the guitars turn sharper and more aggressive before finishing off with a shroud of pure desolation. “So They May Face The Rising Sun” is a bit more funereal at the beginning and the end, while the final song, “The Crossing,” is nearly an homage to the earlier album, but it is laced with the more biting tone of the inevitable future that awaits us all.

Death The Leveller II is out March 13th and you can listen to/watch the lyric video now for “The Hunt Eternal” (link below). You can also pre-order the physical from Cruz Del Sur Music – streaming and downloads will be available on Bandcamp and other platforms. If you want to see them live you need to go to Ireland, for the moment at least. With any luck Death the Leveller will play a few US dates in 2020. They would be a perfect surprise addition to Psycho Las Vegas …

Links.

Lyric video for “The Hunt Eternal,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSgcfhx1mjg

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/deaththelevellerdoom/

Bandcamp, https://deaththeleveller.bandcamp.com/

Cruz Del Sur Music, https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/

Death the Leveller, II, Review