Bust out the black light and the downers, Dead Meadow is here. An unlikely and largely unsuccessful merging of early Pink Floyd psychedelia and Sabbath's dark metal, Dead Meadow's music is mostly a bum trip.
The music on Shivering King and Others represents an interesting idea, one even the modern-day, punk-influenced stoner-rock bands haven't fully explored. It's just that Meadow is missing something very important -- a lead singer. The D.C. three-piece does technically have one in guitarist and vocalist Jason Simon, but his soft, limited voice is so far back in the mix and so heavily treated it sounds like an afterthought. Simon is a great guitar player, one with enough trippy licks that he wouldn't be out of place on the Nuggets boxed set or, in his more reserved moments, somewhere in the Spaceman 3 catalogue. But his vocals detract from the mood.
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Perhaps the reluctance in bringing the voice to the front has something to do with the Dungeons & Dragons lyrics. Here's a taste from the title track "Shivering King": "The gold of your ring/Like the gold of your crown/And a ring on the ground/Is a ring to be found." Yikes, my precious!
It may just be that the murkiness of this recording and the annoying length of the songs (the majority of the 12 songs clock in at more than six minutes) take away the glory of their live sound. Either way, Shivering King is a disappointment, which is too bad, because Dead Meadow is one of those bands that can rivet even the smallest of crowds, as they did last December for three people at Club Congress in Tucson.