Dead Heavens – Whatever Witch You Are (Dine Alone)

Dead Heavens are a relatively new band, first coming together in 2013 to back singer Walter Schreifels on tour, and then morphing into their own thing over the subsequent years. Despite the recent born-on date, they have a pedigree stretching back over three decades of New York underground rock. Schreifels and drummer Drew Thomas are best known for playing in well-loved hardcore & post-hardcore bands (Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand for Schreifels, Bold and Into Another for Thomas; and both were in Youth Of Today at some point), guitarist Paul Kostabi was in an early lineup of White Zombie, and bassist Nathan Aguilar plays with indie rock band Cults. Mixing all of Dead Heavens’ members histories in a blender in 2017 could create just about any musical style and I wouldn’t be that surprised. That they landed on a mix of turn-of-the-’70s hard rock and ’90s desert rock is disappointing. Not that those are bad things, but there’s already a ton of bands out there trying to sound like Sabbath, Hendrix, Kyuss…etc., and Dead Heavens don’t do much to distinguish themselves from the bong-rattling pack. The lumbering rhythm section, psych-blues guitar noodling, and general stoned-out vibe are everything you’d expect to hear from a band playing this kind of music today. Not once on Whatever Witch You Are did they surprise or exceed expectations. Heck, they even use the same Master Of Reality shade of purple lettering that most of today’s heavy psych bands use. I’d forgive the lack of originality if the songs were great, but they’re underwhelming, with the exception of “Adderall Highway.” Yes, it’s a Hawkwind rip-off, but at least the band sounds intense and Schreifels’ vocals aren’t as one-note as they are everywhere else. The closing suite of “Silver Sea” and “Experience To Liberate” is pretty enough, but the song it’s trying to emulate, The Velvet Underground’s “Ocean,” is prettier….and just all around better. That’s Whatever Witch’s problem in a nutshell – it’s almost always painfully obvious who/what Dead Heavens are trying to sound like, and the original is always far better.