Premiere/ Album Review: Warheads by Dead Sea Apes

The world does not stand still. Change is everywhere and is evident in everything we touch and experience, and while we will always go back to the music that we have heard in the past, there’s always something new to encounter. Something new to reflect and shape our own contemporary experiences.

What’s more music can mean many things to us, and can have many different functions; whether it is to entertain, sooth, excite or challenge us. When I started writing about music I had a fairly narrow idea of what I wanted to do. I had a fairly narrow idea of what ‘psych’ was. I think, hope, that this has changed in the ensuing five and a bit years. So despite the name, I have long abandoned the notion that this is a ‘psych’ website… it’s basically about music that intrigues me and connects with me significantly however that be judged. If by writing about it other people become engaged with those sounds, then that’s amazing.

One of the bands who have accompanied me on this journey of discovery pretty much since the start have been the Dead Sea Apes, and I think my review of their Lupus album was a bit of a landmark of me in the way that I started to write about music differently, and with greater depth. Successive releases by that band have always be marked by different approaches that have moved me on in some way or another. However perhaps the most formative moment was a visit to a small, and now sadly defunct, arts space in the Derbyshire town of Belper. I have written about this night before, which was captured on vinyl as ‘In The Year 2039‘, with some incredulity that this performance was totally spontaneous. This has been somewhat further stretched when interviewing Brett Savage and Adam Stone for this piece, that they had not even met before that date. Brett takes up the story:

We met Adam in person at the Belper gig where ‘In The Year 2039’ was recorded.  I’d spoken to him a few times previously in the run up to the gig and he told us of his plans to do a sci-fi themed monologue and we both came upon the idea, quite casually and with next to no planning, of some kind of musical backing. I think we were all surprised about how pleased we were with the results. At the same time we were putting together ‘The Sixth Side Of The Pentagon’ which we had discussed, at the start of putting it together, that it should reflect our political outlook. Being an instrumental band, it’s not always easy to express specific ideas beyond the titles (although you can do this with things such as the artwork, specific atmospheres etc) and Nick [Harris, the band’s former bassist] suggested the idea of working with either a singer or spoken word artist. Having some clue to Adam’s worldview and the fact that he was an accomplished wordsmith – and as we saw on the night a consummate performer, he certainly was the ideal candidate for the job. It was such a good experience all round and we were so happy with the results that we always saw ourselves working with Adam again in the future

As someone who was there that night in Belper, I would say that the results of that first collaboration were bordering on the alchemical, and the few tracks that Stone appeared on “The Sixth Side of the Pentagon’ certainly suggested that a new development and direction was in the offing.

The world does not stand still. Change is everywhere and is evident in everything we touch and experience, and while we will always go back to the music that we have heard in the past, there’s always something new to encounter. Something new to reflect and shape our own contemporary experiences. 

This was clearly the case for the protagonists here as they sought to build on the understanding that occurred so naturally. Adam Stone describes what happened next:

‘Warheads’ was recorded over the dark winter months of late 2017 and into early spring 2018. I had an entire album playing in my head during the summer of 2017 and I knew that Chris [Hardman, DSA drummer and sound engineer] and Brett could make this fiction into a fact. I wanted to channel a lifetime of cultural influences into one solid and hopefully varied long player. Musically it just happened, thanks to the superb playing of Chris and Brett. The tracks they had been working on were perfect for what I wanted to do with my voice. In addition I was able to suggest how I envisaged a track would sound, and they interpreted what was in my imagination with an almost supernatural empathy. For instance, ‘Doing What You Want’ just had to invoke the filthy acid-punk energy of Chrome and late seventies Hawkwind. The ascerbic venom of early PIL-era John Lydon also looms large for me as an important vocal influence. During recording it was interesting to note how hidden influences emerged too, from the Butthole Surfers to the Dead Kennedys. This is stuff I hadn’t consciously channelled, but it was there. Even the leaden wallop of early Black Sabbath heard in Brett’s monolithic riffery on ‘Yes/No’ just kind of regurgitated itself into the studio space like a long-lost memory dying to free itself. The whole experience was a revelation for me.

And that is exactly what it is… a revelation. However, while the tracks on ‘Warheads’ often appear to be something of a departure for the band I think that Stone is right when he suggests that it would be easy to fall into what I would call lazy assumptions about what this album sounds like:

…a good proportion of ‘Warheads’ does not, for me, particularly show any directly obvious musical influence. Tracks like ‘Broken In Two’ and ‘Power To The People’ are very much DSA: great meaty slabs of melancholic electronic manipulation and undulating rhythms. My vocals, layered over the top, act as a mantra or repetitive verse.

Savage again:

Adam definitely came in with some touchstone ideas (although not too prescriptive) but I think that they got parsed through the DSA machine and came out as they did.

And it is that ‘DSA machine’ that has accompanied me over the last five years… a machine that seems to be able to inculturate musical, political, psychological and cultural elements into its sound in a way that seems to make complete sense to me. All those bands Stone mentions above that have also been formative in my life, and I know he’s also partial to some Killing Joke (my own personal favourites) too, which I am sure have also seeped in here.

The world does not stand still. Change is everywhere and is evident in everything we touch and experience, and while we will always go back to the music that we have heard in the past, there’s always something new to encounter. Something new to reflect and shape our own contemporary experiences. 

I keep repeating this refrain then, because I think it is pertinent to this album which draws on diverse musical influences while still sounding contemporary, draws on political ideas which are by no means new while still sounding relevant. Dead Sea Apes have clearly reached back deep into their pasts to draw the relevances into their own extant ideas. In this sense they are the DSA machine. As Stone reflects:

It was important on this album to continue the bleak themes that were apparent previously with regard to ‘In The Year 2039’, ‘Tentacles’ and ‘Pale Anxieties’ (the two tracks featuring Stone on ‘The Six Side of the Pentagon’). Themes that relate to dystopian futures: economic stagnation, technological control, redundant populations and military conflict. Nothing particularly new or groundbreaking of course, well worn ideas admittedly, but nonetheless obsessions of mine that have been nurtured since my seventies and early eighties childhood. Science fiction nostalgia entwined with chronic austerity fatigue. The complex cultural permutations of mature capitalism – the fear of societal and economic instability. In short, the slow death of 20th century utopianism. There you have it, the thematic basis for an entire album. Maybe things are ever so gradually getting better, as Steven Pinker claims. However, optimism doesn’t particularly make for effective rock ‘n’ roll in my book. Give me Throbbing Gristle and Suicide anyday over the hippy bollocks of ‘All You Need Is Love’.

Well amen to that Adam. And there, very concisely, in those last few sentences is the idea of this album in a nutshell. An album that seems quite compact when you first listen to it but somehow gains in sonic and political heft the more times you listen to it.

From the very first few bars of ‘Inside of Me’ you know that this is going to be a different ride as the band pile into a punk number with Stone shrieking like Jello Biafra and I’m transported right back to my bedroom in the late 70s… an opening track that takes me back to the beginning as the the words ‘the same old shit’ are belted out ad nauseam… yep!

After that ‘Reduced to Zero’ opens sounding much more like what you imagine a Dead Sea Apes track to be, but with an opening flurry from Savage which weirdly mirrors the riff from the previous track. The musical mood is languid, as if the energy is being sucked out of the speakers, this providing a fitting backdrop to Stone’s spoken word of anger and despair. Gradually the heat is turned up and the intensity grows, you can hear the exasperation in Stone’s voice, but also is the music… a symbiotic dialectic of a world going to shit.

Next comes the first of two tracks that I am premiering here. ‘Retreat To Your Bunker’ is far more angular in approach. The fizzy distortion of the previous track is swept away by something that feels far more direct. A reflection of our lack of engagement with reality, our retreat into the ‘beers and circuses’ that keep us happy and away from what is really happening, but also how we collude with those who hold control… a cozy abusive relationship… “stay in your bunker until the bomb start falling”… remain deluded… Where does the authority lie? Don’t think about it, you don’t want to know and there are vested interests who want to keep it away from you… the aesthetic reminiscent of public information films about what to do in the case of nuclear war. Cowering under the table of [social] media appeasment.

That for me is the centrepiece of the album, the atmosphere of which is punctured by the second premiere here, (You Are) Doing What You Want (All Of The Time), with Stone sounding like the bastard child of Biafra and Lydon belting out a track that in many ways sounds as if it could have been released at any time in the last forty years, but sounds so fresh… Punk’s not dead but, as Biafra said to me once, “it ain’t 1977 either”.

The world does not stand still. Change is everywhere and is evident in everything we touch and experience, and while we will always go back to the music that we have heard in the past, there’s always something new to encounter. Something new to reflect and shape our own contemporary experiences. 

‘Broken in Two’ is bleak from the off, yet there is a defiance in the opening section before the spoken word comes in which becomes more palpable with every listen. However, there is also something strangely meditative about this track which I guess goes back to Stone’s comment above about his lyrics being like mantras. Listening to this I begin to realise how this fits so well with Hardman’s relentless drumming and Savage’s drones, beats and riffs; all of which seem to deepen the atmospheres being generated here. This, I realise, has always been the case with the Dead Sea Apes but adding lyrics seems to give these more poignancy and immediacy… there’s no escape… the veil is somehow lifted.

I fucking love the start of ‘Yes/ No’… it’s so fucking Sabbath in the absolute best way possible. But it’s Sabbath with a punk frontman and I just love that idea. It really feels like a track that the protagonists have been wanting to do all their lives as they attack it with so much vigour and you can feel the joy and emotion coming through. The refrain of being ‘so confused’ is surely what we all are and basically have been all our adult lives. Whether we sit in hormonal pit of our teenage bedroom, experience the drudgery of the work place, through to the dementia sodden common room of the nursing home… confusion reigns and never really goes away.

Which leaves us with ‘Power To The People’. The title suggests hope… a way out… Stone channelling John Cooper Clark… But, of course, it isn’t. Rather it’s a mediation on the hopelessness of the post/ late/ high/ modern // late capitalist condition. The despair is palpable as the track depends into a pit… a pit that closed long ago… maybe like the one at the bottom of our road where they’ve build new houses and find new ways to rip people of with crappy leasehold deals… making money from the land with a cash crop out of nothing instead of from honest graft under the surface.

‘Power to the people?’ Not a fucking hope!

The world does not stand still. Change is everywhere and is evident in everything we touch and experience, and while we will always go back to the music that we have heard in the past, there’s always something new to encounter. Something new to reflect and shape our own contemporary experiences. 

This is what this album means to me. For me it is about refracting our beliefs and ideas through our musical heritage. So while it helps that I recognise many of the bands of my life through this album, it is not a set that is backward looking but bang on contemporary. This is no historical retrospective but a searing indictment of contemporary society, a dystopic analysis of where we are and a warning of the clear and present danger to all of us. You cannot listen to this album in a passive way… it demands you engage… but you should also not listen to this album for the message alone because while this is another departure for the band, this is a Dead Sea Apes album and they have yet to bring one out that I did not like.

Change is everywhere, yet nothing has changed.

‘Warheads’ is released by Cardinal Fuzz, and is available for pre-order now here.



Thanks very much for reading my blog, I really appreciate this. I write it as a labour of love to help me enjoy music, and to give something back to the many talented people who put out these incredible sounds.

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