In the fifth year after their formation in Milan in 2009, Rise Above Dead took a break from their extensive touring to dive back into the studio and record a new album while they were there. Since singer Andrea Rondanini decided to part ways with the band in the spring of last year, the band had to reconsider their future course of actions. Instead of undertaking the quest for a new singer, they decided to continue as a four-piece and leave vocals behind. In July 2014, they took aforementioned dive into the studios and emerged a bit later with a brand new instrumental record in their pockets. In January of this year, they shared their new effort, titled Heavy Gravity, with the world on their Bandcamp page.
RELEASE DATE: 27 January 2015 LABEL: Moment Of Collapse (Germany) / Shove Records (Italy)
The six-track album starts on the Event Horizon, the famous spaceship of the 1997 movie of the same name, where Lawrence Fishburne’s character captain Miller tells us about the time zero gravity fire consumed his colleague in outer space. Both their sophomore album and this third one share this space theme, which leads us to expect slow, grand, ambient tunes, similar to Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack to Interstellar. Of course, everyone is entitled to his own interpretation of the phenomena of our universe and this becomes clear when the first distortion-rich riff launches after Fishburne is done talking.
The Last Migration, the first track that contains these features, is immediately the most atmospheric piece on the record. The spoken word at the beginning, the riffs that give you the feeling you’re witnessing a spacecraft launch, the long-stretched structures mixed with heavy distortion and sometimes almost rock & roll-like sound contribute to a combination of more popular rock or metal music and less common instrumental compositions. Post-rock & roll, if you will. It leads to a unique sense of space disaster, foreshadowed by the words of captain Miller and the track title.
However, the remaining tunes on the album do not seem to offer a lot of diversity. While the instrumentation remains sound and decent, the tracks following The Last Migration show a closer resemblance to a sequence of strong riffage than to coherent, attention-grasping compositions. It almost makes us wish the band had indeed undertaken the search for a new singer. Strong vocals could make a difference here, offering a mainstay in the vast amount of distortion while creating diversity between the often very similar songs. Without them, a lot of the excitement and suspense provided by the first track fades away. The spacecraft exploded, cargo and debris is floating pointlessly through infinite time and space. But that doesn’t mean there are no bright spots to be found along the way. Normally, I’m no fan of guitar solos, but the sudden outbursts on guitar, with pumping rhythmic support, provide brief flashes of excitation.
Between sometimes slightly repetitive passages, this album is at times awe-inspiring and contains a unique sound, combining clearly distinctive influences in one solid record. Rise Above Dead’s daring decision to continue as an instrumental four-piece can be doubted, but was not entirely without merit. Heavy Gravity is an effort worth a listen and who knows, maybe heavy gravity pulls a strong-voiced survivor of space calamity into the orbit around Earth, destined to sing for this Italian band.