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Death & Taxe$:Paradigms for a New Quarter
Label: Aggressive Erectors/Death & Taxe$,
PO Box 7334, Torrance, CA 90504.  1996.

I'd been given some advance warning about Death & Taxe$ before strapping
myself in to my rocket seat to check out their debut slab 'o' wax.  I'm
pleased to report that the band lives up to the advance hype, delivering a
high-powered CD that is very much prog for the 21st century.  Opinion seems
to be divided into two camps -- older more traditional symphonic fans who
can't get into them at all -- and younger listeners who get off on the
blending of gut-wrenching thrash-metal and highly advanced jazz-rock fusion
pyrotechnics.  In other words, this prog ain't about the summer of love or
anything remotely near GeneYes derived neo.

What is offered up by this highly skilled power-trio is raw-edged,
armour-plated rock that takes enormous risks as it walks the tightrope
between fistinyaface metallisms and fusion workouts -- frequently within the
same pieces of music.  In fact I'd have to say that I've never heard
anything quite like Death & Taxe$, and the closest rule of thumb analogy
would be if Metallica began playing jazz.  Since this isn't an instrumental
project, the lyrics make for an interesting read.  Difficult topics are
discussed with tough as nails candour, clearly marking these guys as a
bright and brainy bunch, and not the hyper-punks that a casual play-through
of the CD might suggest to an inattentive listener.

The down side of the approach to composition taken by Death & Taxe$ is that
they haven't got a prayer of getting airplay.  They are an immensely hard
band, they are an immensely complex band, and will be a nightmare for any
radio programmer to try to categorize!  The only weak area is the lead
vocals.  Sometimes they work well, especially when Tom Shannon and Tony
Martinez join forces to sing in unison.  When each is left to his own
devices, the fingers start to scrape on the chalkboards, with the vocalists
being chronically flat in their delivery.  Given that most of the
compositions have lengthy instrumental workouts, this is a minor point of
irritation...since most thrash bands don't have singers this good anyway!

Death & Taxe$ shouldn't be confused with prog-metal outfits like Dream
Theater.  While there is a huge metallic element in their music, D&T are
nothing at all like the reigning kings of prog-metal.  The jazz influences
run very deep and are sometimes quite sublime in how and where they pop to
the surface.  Fans of symphonic prog might have to put aside preconceptions
of what prog is and isn't in order to get their minds around this album.
Those who can do that will be in for a highly satisfying meal of a very
different sort of progressive cuisine.

Who would like this?  Any prog fan who still wants their prog to attempt the
idea of progression, and isn't afraid of large-scale guitar driven sonic
assault as part of the program.  Fusion fans in search of a bit of whomp in
their prog.  Technical metal fans looking for more than just mathematics and

Who would hate it?  Those who can't come to grips with the seamless welding
of thrash and jazz into a beautiful new being of steel and diamonds.  Those
who need their prog to be niiiiiice.

The best tracks:  "Paper Thoughts", "Fighting The Bromides", "Genuflecting
Derelict", "Sexual Intellectual" and "The Woodpecker's Song".  Though I
could almost have stuck a pin into the track listing to make my choices
since everything's top notch.

The track the best represents D&T's style: "Genuflecting Derelict".

Star rating: 3.5 out of 5.  I reluctantly had to strike half a star for the
vocals not being on par with the instrumental prowess and the
thought-provoking lyrics, and the decision to open with "Cyberpunks..."
immediately followed by "Munchkins...".  The tracks are too similar in
texture and crunch, even if the second half of "Munchkins..." did drift into
spacey jazz territory.  Otherwise this would be a 4 star CD.  See it.
Grab it.  Play it.  A big-time keeper.

Tom Shannon  Basses, vocals, ray gun, chimes, flexitone, laugh bag & water
Tony Martinez  Guitars & vocals.
Mark Hanson  Drums, cymbals (backwards & forwards), bongos & woodblock.
Background vocal "Yeah's!" on "Cyberpunks..." by Dale Raines.

Arranged & Produced by Death & Taxe$.
Engineered by Dino Maddalone & Jeff Mayo.
Recorded & mixed @ Dino M III Recording Facility, Torrance, CA.  May 95-
Jan 96.

The Tunes:
1. Cyberpunks From The Galactic Core [3:47]
2. Munchkins From Hell [4:55]
3. Paper Thoughts [7:04]
4. Invisible Man [2:53]
5. Fighting The Bromides [3:47]
6. Genuflecting Derelict [6:09]
7. Circle Song [5:36]
8. Man Machine [3:55]
9. Swirling Serling's Bargain Matinee [6:50]
10. My Silent World [3:30]
11. Sexual Intellectual [5;54]
12. Obstreperous Auguries [2:39]
13. The Woodpecker Song [7:28]
14. Acid Bath [2:38]

Steven Davies-Morris (SDM) -- A 21st Century Schizoid Man




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