On first glance, everything about Dead Child’s persona seems to follow suit of the metal cliché. From the band’s name, to the press bio, down to the sharp lettered font used on every metal t-shirt since the conception of Metal Blade records. But before we delve into the sonic elements of the record – let’s set the record straight. Dead Child is not for metal elitists. It is for those that want to relive the ball-busting blues drone of Sabbath to the slaying Bay-Area Thrash that overtook the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Where the established metal connoisseur may find this as a commodity, those that appreciate the golden era of metal will salivate to the sounds of Dead Child.
Dead Child plays out as the brainchild of David Christian Pajo, also known as Papa M, Pajo, or Aerial M. He was also a founding member of Slint, along with Dead Child guitarist Michael McMahan. Listening to prior work from Pajo and McMahan, it’s uncomplicated to see where this heavy-brooding project spawned. After playing basically the antithesis of heavy metal in a band that helped to create the illustrious genre “post-rock”, the beast has finally awoken inside. Two decades of playing music in projects that steer clear of peaking meters, Dead Child’s Attack is homage to the sounds of Pajo and McMahan’s youth.
On the back of the record, the description reads, “Attack is a metal frankenstein made from the strongest limbs of heavy music.” The band manages to live up to that statement by drawing from every aspect from the trance inducing drones to the technical shredding made popular in the 1980s. The most impressive aspect of the record is its ability to weave in and out of these influences seamlessly from track-to-track. “The Coldest Hands” spends its duration on the low-end hanging on slow, creeping power chords into echo-laden guitar bends that squeal through the dynamic depths of hell, while “Angel of the Odd” is based on thrash metal influences that revisit the passion and solo trade-offs championed by Exodus’ landmark recording, Bonded by Blood (1985).
Influences aside, this band is a group of steady workhorses. Attack shows no evidence of an album that may have been some kind of unattended side-project. The musicianship is incredibly tight and delivered with a fervent dose of power. Where many artists side-projects can fall victim to an artist’s prime projects, Pajo took the time to alienate Dead Child into its own being. Make no mistake about it, this is a band started from scratch – not an inkling “the guys from Slint” had one day. Michael McMahan plays the axe alongside Pajo, and neither member wears the pants. Unlike many metal maniac egos, everyone plays their role here to deliver the tightest recording possible – there is no distinction of “lead guitar” in the liner notes. The rhythm section is the only dynamic aspect of the record that falls below stellar. The kit could’ve been brought up in the mix to give it a bigger presence. This isn’t contributed to Tony Bailey; he’s got the chops to hold down the fort, yet it could be contributed to an executive decision in the studio.
If there is any one aspect of Attack to be taken as a joke, it has to be Dahm’s (yes, that is his full listed name) lyrical content. Although the phrases may be a bit shaky, Dahm has one hell of a set of pipes behind his delivery. With phrases such as, “kiss of death sweeter than a dream come true/Ride the sky tonight just lookin’ for you/can’t you hear the horses runnin’/just say my name when you hear me coming”, it’s hard to find the nerve not to chuckle. But this is part of what makes Attack so unbearably charming: it’s not afraid to let loose and take things lightly and free itself of pretension.
Attack is the kind of record a band makes when they want to get back to basics. I sense that when they play this music it’s as if they are playing music with teenage ears and conviction, something that inevitably gets lost along the way with most musicians.