After having toiled in obscurity for years, the Hackney brothers have finally begun to receive the recognition their unique brand of Motor City rock deserves. Drag City’s 2009 compilation of Death’s collector-bait singles offered a furious proto-punk that felt like a musical missing link, and critics immediately responded. After two more compilations and a documentary detailing the band’s rise, fall and improbable rebirth, the band is finally ready for their moment in the spotlight. Sadly, all of this attention has come long after the death of their driving force, guitarist and principal songwriter, David Hackney.

Undeterred and ready to show the world they can still produce a wicked racket, the surviving members of Death have released their first collection of new material since their music was rediscovered. With guitarist Bobbie Duncan joining surviving brothers Dennis and Bobby, N.E.W. proudly carries the fraternal torch lit so long ago into the 21st century.

Thankfully, N.E.W. doesn’t stray far from the music they made raging away in a Detroit basement 40 years ago. Rather than tweaking the formula that made their reputation, Death furthers its hard-charging riff-centric proto-punk. With the remaining Hackney brothers driving the rhythm section, new addition Duncan seamlessly slots into the frenetic guitar role originally inhabited by David. Tightly wound and highly rhythmic, N.E.W. features ten tracks built around blitzkrieg guitars and short, punchy melodies.

The band casts aside any doubt that they can maintain their old energy with a frenetic lead track. “Relief” sounds just like their early singles, a rumbling beast of a track that distills the band’s best attributes into two and a half minutes of pure rock ‘n’ roll. From there they continued unabated.

Writing duties are shared equally and often build on existing song fragments penned by David. While most of the lyrics are generic (the music takes center stage), they do take time to reference their good fortune and gratitude for a second chance. With its descending guitar riff and seemingly autobiographical lyrics, “Who Am I?” perfectly encapsulates the band’s newfound position. Noting that life now seems “like a movie” and more than a little surreal, a sense of disorientation permeates the lyrics, with the chorus of “Who am I/ Where am I/And how did I get here?” sounding more like a plea for help in contextualizing a situation that less than a decade ago seemed impossible. Similarly, on “Resurrection,” they reference a literal life after D/death.

Sticking to what works and playing to expectations, N.E.W. solidifies the band’s reputation as another great product of Detroit’s music scene. But rather than being the revelation their original singles were, it simply adds to their legacy without expanding it. They seem to be aware of this on closing track “Change.” “All things must change/ Nothing stays the same.” Even if they never change, Death finally has a chance to prove that they’re still alive after all these years.

  • Fleet Foxes: Shore

    After the dense and solemn Crack-Up, Robin Pecknold returns the Fleet Foxes to their roots…
  • Revisit: Donna Summer: The Wanderer

    A beginning, middle and end, this may not be Summer’s strongest album, but it contains all…
  • Hen Ogledd: Free Humans

    This is a lot of trebly, upbeat music to stomach in one sitting, but Hen Ogledd has evolve…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Harmonious Thelonious: Plong

Plong incorporates elements of the avant garde in the use of distorted, non-traditional so…