Have a listen to: "Warm Bodies", Groei Donker (Grow Dark)" and "Merci (FVKT)"
Death Valley High – Cvlt (As Fvk)
Release Date: 4th November 2016
Minus Head Records
When I try to describe ‘Cvlt‘ by Death Valley High I struggle to word exactly what this album is, it’s a bizarre blend of bedroom punk and Drum N’ Bass that comes across as a band that is clearly trying too hard to be hardcore and edgy.
The album opens with a track named ‘SUNSHINE CLEANERS‘ (yes, every track on this album is in caps lock), this song immediately kicks off with a bass heavy dance beat to get the listener moving, but the straining vocals just leave you feeling like the vocalist is suffering from stomach issues causing him to randomly accent words whilst speaking through his teeth. There are definitely moments in the song that you can start to hear what the band are trying to go for with their goth-dance stylings but ultimately it feels like a weak start.
Up next is ‘WARM BODIES‘, a song that features one of the bands better riffs and an attempt to sound mysterious in the vocal build up throughout. The chorus of this song is actually rather catchy with its simplistic lyrics and music that makes it feel like one of the few tracks you could sing along to after a couple of drinks. That’s about all that one can praise from this track unfortunately, as Death Valley High fall right back into the trap that they’ve set themselves with this “overly Marilyn Manson” sound that stopped being cool back in 2006.
If you can make it through the rather annoying intro of ‘PSALM BITCH‘ (yes, really) the song is probably the strongest effort on the album in terms of musicality and general quality. Lyrically, it isn’t the strongest bit of writing you’ll hear, with some very odd choices of phrases and a chorus that contains the worst hook lyrics out there that really continue this trend of 14 year old rebellion against your parents. But musically, it’s a well written song that really does get the blood pumping to move around and have fun with it, which is definitely praise-worthy.
When the music kicks in for ‘ICK SWITCH‘ I wouldn’t knock you for thinking you’re just listening to a remix of The Beautiful People by Manson, because honestly they’re musically identical songs and it’s really hard to decide if it’s a genius reference or just lazy song writing. If you go on the idea that they are intentionally writing in the style of a Goth icon this song gains a lot more merit, as it truly is a song I could see Manson releasing as a big comeback single, but after the previous tracks I don’t know if I can truly believe that this is the case.
‘PLAY DEAD‘ is a song that, for some reason, makes me think of the live action Scooby-Doo movies, I’m not sure if it’s because I’m losing my mind a little bit or because it genuinely is reminiscent of that “older generation trying to have music for the cool youths” mentality that is so prominent in those movies. The main issue with this track is the mix has been done rather poorly; everything is so loud that nothing stands out at all, there are times when the vocals are being drowned out by the music and vice versa, which makes listening to it a chore in a way as you try to pick out any sense of individualism from the band.
I’m not really sure what ‘GROEI DONKER (GROW DARK)‘ is, the song is all over the place with itself as it tries to be a dance classic but also this sort of heavy metal beatdown track for all the pit kids to murder each other to. There are definitely elements of a decent live track here, with its solid structure and bounce that does make you want to bob along with the beat like Churchill the dog on a bumpy road. This is definitely a track written for a live audience to enjoy to their hearts content.
“Welcome to the bloodbath, man, woman, child and all”, this is the opening line of ‘THE BAD BOOK‘ and it sets the stage perfectly for what this song is. This song is the murder of all sense of decent song writing from DVH, from the frustrating repetition in the chorus to the over-produced tones of the instruments that just sound like someone put on all of the effects and said “fuck it, that’ll do”. Truthfully, this song is just poorly written, poorly produced and overall bad.
‘MERCI (FVKT)‘ is a song that feels very out of place on this album, mainly because it’s actually not that bad, great instrument work and the vocals aren’t overpoweringly annoying. If DVH wrote more in this style they could easily be releasing good albums, they just need to be willing to put as much effort into all their tracks to get them up to a standard such as this. This is definitely the stand out track on the album.
‘12:13 (AS MANY FVKS)‘ is an odd little break in the middle of the album that brings a far more hardcore sound to the band, with its breakdown-esque feel and brutal lyrics screaming out “cut” as loud as it can. But the big issue is that this is nothing more than an interlude track and it’s over just as it begins leaving you wanting more of this DVH and less of the previous version.
‘FLOWERS FOR AMY DEVILLE‘ is our next stop on this journey back through to time, to when Goths were cool, with its romantic themes and accented beats reminiscent of classic neo-goth tunes with that extra touch of loud electro that DVH love to put on their tracks. If a listener was to jump straight into just this song alone, the originality of the sound would make them happy, but unfortunately it’s so late into an album that is honestly starting to blur together into one big fuzzy noise. At this point it’s become clear to anyone that’s made it this far through the album, Death Valley High are a one-trick pony that can only write one song just with slight differences in lyrics and structure.
The opening of ‘TIPTOE THRU THE CRYPTS‘ is so noughties that it hurts a little bit, with that simplistic beat and riff to follow. This song is a strange mix of the sounds of White Zombie and the vocal ranges of Marilyn Manson which would be fine fifteen years ago, but now it feels rather dated; like it’s all been done before but this time its synths instead of down-tuned guitars. Also, the use of text speak in the title just further proves to me that this band care more about being edgy than actually being good.
The final track on this album, ‘THERE WAS AN OLD LADY‘, is so similar to the earlier ‘ICK SWITCH‘ that I thought there was an error with the album, musically this is nothing new at all, it’s just another Manson song being played by some wannabes. The only thing that stands out with this song is that is DVH’s cover of the famous children’s story with the same name, meaning it’s the most creative thing the band has done this whole album.
Overall, I think it’s clear how I feel about this album, ten years ago it would most definitely be a staple of every goth/emo teenager’s collection; but it’s just too late for DVH to put something like this out when Manson is getting old and the goth scene is fading into the darkness that it came from.