Deadboy and the Elephantmen
We Are Night Sky (Fat Possum)
by Brian Varney
It’s pretty hard to believe this is the work of the guy who used to sing for Acid Bath. Even folks who’re familiar with Dax Riggs’s more recent stuff, including the first Deadboy and the Elephantmen album, If This Is Hell Then I’m Lucky, may be surprised with this most recent album. Although Riggs’s post-Acid Bath work has gotten progressively farther away from metal, the leap that resulted in We Are Night Sky is quite a large one. I was a bit surprised when I heard that this album was being released by Fat Possum, a label known mostly for its raw, almost punk rock approach to American roots music. Until I heard the album, then the pairing made a lot of sense.
The band is now a duo, which means the lush, studio-rat sterility of If This Is Hell is a vague memory. Both incarnations of the band tread similar emotional terrain, though the fatalistic beauty seems much more urgent here. Dax’s vocals and guitar (both frequently distorted) and Tessie Brunet’s feral drumming and lovely harmony vocals are just about all you’re gonna get here, save for a few guest appearances that’re mostly inaudible over the frantic, tinny maelstrom.
I love this album. I can totally understand why fans of Acid Bath or Agents of Oblivion, or even the first Deadboy album, wouldn’t like this, but I’m so enamored of Dax’s voice that I’d be heavily inclined to like this, no matter what. The songs are pretty uniformly strong, which helps, but my current favorites are the slithering, almost funky “Misadventures of Dope” and the sad, spooky “Evil Friend.”
This is the work of a true band (the first Deadboy album felt more like a group of musicians providing instrumental backdrops for Dax’s vocal acrobatics), and thus a lot more visceral in the rock sense.