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Monday, June 18, 2012

Dead Poetic -- Vices

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9/10

I feel sorry for Dead Poetic's swansong, Vices.  My own first experience with it is a pretty good representation of what happened to the album after it was released.  The fall of 2006 had me in a situation where I felt more out of sorts than any time in my life.  I got engaged, moved to a city apartment, and was planning a December wedding.  I wasn't ready for any of those things (but they had to happen, and I'm glad they did), and life was just kind of like a sugar rush I couldn't control.  Vices came out on Halloween of that year, and I scooped it up for myself and my fiancee a few weeks later.  We listened to it a few times, and we both enjoyed it, but in all the chaos, it got lost.
Literally, we lost and forgot about the CD.
At the same time, Dead Poetic vocalist, Brandon Rike, was quitting the band.  He too had a new family on which to focus, and he wasn't interested in keeping the band going. Tooth & Nail records put a lot into Vices production, but when they saw the band wasn't going to be able to promote it, they figured they might as well not worry about promoting it either.  On top of that, all the college freshman of the mid-decade were moving on from their Underoath-induced heavy music phases, and weren't interested in whatever Dead Poetic was selling...too much going on, and Vices vanished...FOREVER...
Nope.  Something I realize when I get older is how much ephemeral stuff is actually not as ephemeral as we think.  CD's you spent $18 on once, and were scared to death to scratch, can be purchased used on sites like Amazon for far, far, far less than that (yes, three fars at the least!).  Around five years after its release, some songs from Vices materialized in my head and got stuck, so I decided I would pick it up again.  I'm glad I did.
Vices is, without a doubt, Dead Poetic's finest album.  Just like their second album, New Medicines, was a step above their debut, Vices is a step above New Medicines. Gone are Brandon Rikes screams.  Gone are any hardcore impulses.  In their place is an atmospheric, thought-out rock album with complex themes, and great songs.  No one has to bicker about genre here.
The album's theme is literal.  Brandon Rike sings about vices, but as the album goes on, he points the finger more and more at himself until everything literally comes "Crashing Down" on track twelve.  The band do a brilliant job of portraying a slow-acting numbness throughout Vices.  The album starts out very high-energy and straightforward, but gets darker as it goes along. Track three, "Self-Destruct & Die" details the strain Rike is under, attempting to put out the image that he has it together for the band's fans.
The album starts to evolve during track five,, "In Coma," a beautiful song detailing the benefits of falling into that state ("It's the only defense we have left").

This is the moment that the album's atmosphere really begins to thicken, and by track ten, the revealing "Paralytic," it is here to stay.  "Paralytic" was produced by Deftones' Chino Moreno (who was going through a pitch black personal period at this time), and Chino also offers the pre-chorus vocal.  During the chorus, Rike truly leaves himself bare with the line, "All we are is paralyzed from the face down/We're still alive with our fake smiles/When the camera's away."  It's a very chilling song, and reveals the true and personal nature of the album:
In Rike's opinion, the person with the worst Vices is the one who is more flawed than nearly all others, yet is "addicted to being something they will look up to." In other words, Brandon Rike.

The final four songs are a coma of sound musically reminiscent of A Perfect Circle's Thirteenth Step--a compliment I give with the highest regard. These songs are Rike finally coming to terms with the fact that if anyone really knew him, they would be disgusted by him.
In the end, there is only one place Rike can find solace.  The violin-led denouement of the album-closing title-track is completely isolated from the rock music of the previous 50 minutes, but it strands Rike in the only truly safe place he can reach.

If you're going to break up, this is the way to do it.  I hope one day Vices gets the recognition it deserves.

2006 Tooth & Nail Records
1. Cannibal vs. Cunning 3:28
2. Lioness 3:27
3. Self-Destruct & Die 3:36
4. Narcotic 3:00
5. In Coma 4.00
6. Long Forgotten 3:20
7. Pretty Pretty 2:54
8. Sinless City 4:13
9. The Victim 4:01
10. Paralytic 4:23
11. Animals 2:40
12. Crashing Down 3:33
13. Copy of a Copy 2:45
14. Vices 5:35

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