True to his word, Blue says of Deadsy's new album, Phantasmagore (due Aug. 22 on Elementree/Immortal), "We just wanted to make a rock record in the spirit of [Reed's] Transformer."
"Undercore" – the mutant synthesis of '80s new wave and bubblegum death metal beloved by Deadsy's fierce cult following – is much in evidence on the album, but so, too, is the strain of pre-punk glam art-rock pioneered by Reed in the Velvet Underground.
More important than any influence, however, is Deadsy's undying drive to push the creative envelope. "Sometimes I feel like we're living in a time bereft of imagination," Blue laments. "You see a corporate mentality seeping into every part of American society, breeding mediocrity and stagnation and conformity. It's like we're back in the '50s -- everything sounds the same. As far as Deadsy's concerned, we pride ourselves on being permanently adjacent to the prevailing culture."
Deadsy first began separating themselves from the pack with spectacular L.A. club shows, the avant-garde staging of which earned the act virulent word of mouth. They released their debut album, Commencement, in 2003. The disc debuted in the top half of the Billboard 200 and sold more than 100,000 copies. Nonstop touring, with the likes of Korn, among others, saw further swelling of the Deadsy legions.
With Phantasmagore, the band clearly remain fans of Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy, but there is a greater stress on melody and a heightened expressiveness in singer-guitarist Blue's delivery. Moreover, the band's signature synthesizers, shrapnel guitar and devotion to distortion serve eerily beautiful soundscapes that transmit a more sophisticated sense of composition.
Not that Deadsy has gone soft. Says Blue of the musically insistent, lyrically incisive "Babes in Abyss": "It's about women we've met backstage and on the road who seem utterly incapable of looking beyond the superficial. There's an accounting of their heinous acts that culminates in this massive underworld crescendo. I like my art to have attitude -- Sex Pistols style."
The standout "Razor Love," meanwhile, is notable for dueling guitars and a post-prog-metal chorus – "I don't know what the future holds/ No I don't know what's in store/All I want is another chance to use life for what it's for" – that is highly likely to linger in the listener's primitive mind.
The song "Carrying Over" is another highlight, a painterly, 12-string-enhanced pop anthem that provides intriguing insight into the band's evolution as songwriters. It boasts an expansive sonic quality that recalls the harder-rocking passages of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Asked about his guitar work on Phantasmagore, Blue mentions the Bowie classic "Heroes," remarking: "I've always admired Robert Fripp's playing on that song. He can totally shred, but he plays this simple, lyrical guitar line on 'Heroes' that pretty much defines the song."
Having long maintained a hands-on stance in the studio, Deadsy produced the disc themselves. Blue quips, "We got to play Napoleon and do everything we wanted."
One of the things they wanted was to deconstruct a band favorite, the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black." "We like the idea of spinning some musical heritage into a modern record and making it sound like it belongs there," Blue confides. "I welcome that challenge." Still, he jokes, "We included more Indian instruments on there than Brian Jones did -- that's live harmonium, tambour and sarongi."
Deadsy plans to blow minds far and wide when it takes Phantasmagore on the road. In addition to a returning berth on the Family Values Tour, Blue informs, "We're thinking bigger -- the entire world is on the menu."
Despite the implications of introducing Deadsy's work to that ultimate mass audience, Blue says the band is more concerned with taking musical risks than achieving global domination.
"The goal is to make great, interesting albums and see what happens," he ventures. "I've always respected artists who stay true to their vision, people who just go out there and do it and don't care what anyone thinks, even after they become successful and the pressure's on to keep doing what they've already done. All we want is to stay on the edge creatively, go out there and sing the songs, and keep building our little empire."