The musician/artist known as The Dead Magnolia grew up in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, and started playing guitar with his best friend at the age of 14. At that time, he focused on being the best guitarist he could be by writing complicated guitar rhythms and solos, while listening to Nirvana, Metallica, Steve Ray Vaughn and many other rock bands. After going through an early band break up at 18 and going off to college, a co-worker of his asked if he would teach her and her husband a little something of what he knew on the guitar. After playing a little SRV (Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy”), he felt inspired again and decided to get back into writing music. During the last year and a half, the artist wrote and recorded songs for his debut album Bury Me. Even though the whole process was lonely and seemingly directionless, he was determined to find his voice and to get the album recorded.
As luck would have it, the album’s title track was played by a local radio station, which got favorable attention. You can also see the video to this song on YouTube. Thematically, the album is an “emotional anthology of painful times,” “struggles of close friends” and “a desire to regain control.” The foundation of the artist’s music is built with a focus on strong vocal melodies and purposeful chord progressions to create memorable harmonies – no two songs are the same in their message or delivery. Lyrically, whether direct or ambiguous, the words to Bury Me illustrate the deep-felt emotions tied to events in the artist’s life. His work has been likened to Shinedown and Nirvana. “Dear Carousel” begins things with heavy bass lines, and a thick, distorted guitar. The riff and drums remind me of old school KISS, like something from Hotter Than Hell, but with the modern edge of Soundgarden. The lyrics suggest being on a carousel of “ups and downs” where life gets really dark.
The beginning to the album’s title “Bury Me” gave me the chills, as I heard a child singing the lyrics – “I’m not dead but I feel like dying.” This was a song of desperation to be sure. Something about it also made me think of Glen Danzig, although I am not totally familiar with a lot of this music. “Songs for Children” has got this fuzzy, edginess about it that sounded awesome, especially how the drums came out in the recording. Lyrically, it’s another dark one – “Razor blades and the tooth decay / Our innocence has gone away.” And further, “Self-aborted unborn children / imagine life and being with them…” Damn man, I’m at a loss. “Turning Blue” caught me off guard with it’s synth keyboard beginning, but you’ll hear no happy ‘80s new wave flair here. It’s a pretty dark but interesting song overall.
The beginning to “Theta” creeped the hell out of me, but I’m not sure if this one’s about the Greek letter or the star constellation. I vote probably neither. But at any rate, the artist pleads for help and to “put my mind at ease” from this “Theta” and comes to terms with the trouble in his mind. “Stranger in You” may be the most introspective song on the album, as the words are written in first person. They also cleverly address the songwriter as “you” in second person – “I’m your crazy / I’m your insane / I’m the stranger in you.” Next up is “Coraline” and it is perhaps Dead Magnolia’s darkest number, as it deals with a drowning child. The piano adds effective chills up the spine, as does the chiming bell clock and talking children in the chorus. I’m not going to lie; this was a hard one to stomach. My only hope is that this was not based on a true event.
“Mother’s Friend’s Nicotine” is another number which features synths and also a gritty low drumbeat. As you might expect, this is another song that deals with a dark theme, as the words suggest “mother” dies from her addiction to nicotine, having “no will” she slips away – “ashes to ashes…dust to dust.” The last song is “Intentions” and this one had a different feel style wise. I liked the synths playing in the background, the melody reminded me of some suspenseful horror movie. The words suggest doing some “stuff” with someone else who has “bad intentions” but I wasn’t sure what those were. But what I liked most was the artist’s guitar solo – holy crap – that was pretty awesome! The ending had a haunting feel to it, too.
In the end, the album as a whole was hard to put into one genre, however, like the artists’ Bandcamp site states, “post-grunge alternative rock” sounds about right. And I really didn’t get any Nirvana influence here, I was thinking more along the lines of old gritty metal from the ‘70s meets up with Soundgarden, laid on top of some deep, dark lyrics a la black metal. I’ll let you be the judge, and I hope we see more from this Minneapolis songwriter in the future.
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