Artist: Dealey Plaza
Album: Culture and Circumstances – EP
Our impact on the people around us and the world we live in is just as much a factor of our upbringing and history as it is a matter of our genetic make-up and personality. You’ve heard of the whole nature vs. Nurture thing, right? It’s like that—we are a collection of our experiences and the world in which we were raised. Our past—our culture—is a huge factor of where we go, what we do and what mark we leave when it comes to our existence on this planet.
Which means Dealey Plaza must have come from one hell of a place to be the monstrous, impacting and immense powerhouse they are today.
Culture and Circumstance, the band’s long-awaited EP is a misnomer if ever there was one. The album art—a cold, nostalgic looking photo—and peaceful, composed name imply pretty much the direct opposite of what this crushing collection of five tracks truly is: Dealey Plaza at their absolute heaviest. Sacrificing some of their overt deathcore influences from the earlier entries in their discography and continuing down the path hinted at by Deliverance, Culture and Circumstances combines metallic influence, raw aggression, elements of –core influence ranging from heavy hardcore to metal and deathcore—all of it—to create an oppressive, intelligent experience that, while a detour from the political message the listener might be used to, is Dealey Plaza at their most cohesive—and what I’d argue to be their best.
While Dealey Plaza may not have started this way, the group have formed into a relative supergroup—with guitarist, production mastermind and overlord of heavy music Jesse Kirkbride at the helm, the band have emerged from the swampy slums of Florida to grow into a nation-and-worldwide juggernaut. With a series of changes since Deliver Us, Dealey Plaza are back with a raunchier, more unhinged sound than the listener might have expected, in no small part to the attitude and aggression put forth by percussionist Chris Whited—a name you likely recognize from the likes of King Conquer, Lost Fortune, and of course, working alongside Kirkbride in his production empire. Whited uses an organic, authentic feel (accentuated by live drum recording) to pump pure range into Culture and Circumstances’ veins. While heiring less on the side of technicality and more on inflicting mass casualties with blunt, bone-busting power, Whited still managed to keep things moving with heaps of energy. From the salvo-after-salvo of “Bricks,” through “Home” and “Divide,” Whited keeps things moving along excellently, working with long-time bassist Troy Sinatra to provide a snappy, thick firmament. Sinatra’s bass bolsters Whited’s kick drum and adds depth to Dealey Plaza’s dynamic, all without ever really being too prominent. “Unrequited” sees Sinatra at his boldest, where the introductory number is a blistering example of just how low he can go. Atop it all, Kirkbride—joined by guitarist Kyle Carter (notably of Beacons)–absolutely dominate, with groovy, immense portions joined by breakdowns and riffs violent enough that they feel like a chainsaw severing the listener’s calvaria in twain. Carter and Kirkbride hit hard, fast, and incessantly on “Bricks,” but use “Home” and “Divide” as more balanced and immersive tracks, only before closing things succinctly with the sinister “Unrequited.” Where “Landlord” and “Unrequited” are barbaric, they’re also beautiful—as they see Kirkbride and Carter working in perfect tandem with Whited and Sinatra, establishing a marvelous, well-rounded and ruthless display of power.
With a more brazen, filed down and blunt approach to delivering raunchy, bordering on toxic levels of devastating aggression, one thing remains almost constant with Dealey Plaza’s dynamic: the excellent efforts of frontman Bryan Long. Long’s vocal cords have held down the front with Dealey Plaza for years now, and, in turn with the band’s shark-like mentality of constant forward (and upward) motion, Long’s vocals improve in turn. Culture and Circumstance sees Long at his most mature yet, using every extend of his range, harping on hectic mid-range yells in “Landlord,” with “Divide” and “Unrequited” filling out the extreme ends of his talents. Long’s voice is still every ounce as unique as it’s always been, lashing out with a tone that sounds, quite honestly, like no one else—therefore it’s hard to really put a finger on how he sounds different, but he certainly does. Perhaps it’s the time that’s elapsed since Deliver Us, perhaps it’s the amped up emotion and rage-inciting intensity abundant on their 2018 effort, and, given the uncouth political atmosphere (and Dealey’s past as a politically driven act), maybe it’s just the world at large in 2018 bringing out the best in Long. Something is different, and whatever it is—that new energy and immense, profound and sharpened ability to elegantly span his arsenal of styles and tones—makes Culture and Circumstances one hell of a record.
I feel like a broken record whenever confronted with the task of trying to describe Dealey Plaza’s latest endeavors. With each effort they put forth, they consistently force me to eat my own words—as I never seem to predict that their next release will (invariably, at this point) be able to beat their current masterwork. I thought the same thing with The Masonic Diaries, Provoke the Human, Deliver Us—and each time I’m wrong. The same thing is true now; a perfect blend of intense, no-holds barred aggression on Long’s part, blended with the dark, devastating instrumentation from Kirkbride et al., Culture and Circumstance blends heavier, hellish death-and-metalcore elements with brash hardcore and a tint of sharp, slicing metal. The result is nigh impossible to confine to a single genre, but the take-away is simple: if the consequence of waiting damn close to three years for another Dealey Plaza record is something this incredible, it’s a consequence I’m ready to accept.
For Fans Of: Beacons, King Conquer, Lost Fortune, Deadland, Bodysnatcher
By: Connor Welsh