Over a period of 15+ years, together and apart, growth and change are natural. But few manage to sum up how time and success have affected their lives quite like Death From Above‘s Jesse F. Keeler. “I’ve changed”, Keeler says. “My life is nothing like it was in 2000. Back then, we lived in an old funeral home. Now, I own an old cemetery.” The comparison neatly sums up Death From Above’s journey: their new record, Outrage! Is Now, maintains the same unique spirit of their earlier records while also showing a real progression.
Though Death From Above formed in 2001, Outrage! Is Now is only their third studio album, coming after their 2004 debut, You’re a Woman, I’m A Machine, and 2014’s The Physical World. Outrage! Is Now was recorded in L.A. with producer/engineer Eric Valentine (QOTSA, Third Eye Blind), and is a testament to the band’s renewed creativity in the wake of their 2011 reunion.
The first track, ‘Nomad’, is a heavy, fuzzed-out introduction to the record. Its driving sound is classic Death From Above — the duo have always carved out their own space along the liminal, darkly-poppy edges of punk, dance, and rock. On ‘Caught Up’, the slinky, slurry intro lures the listener in, locking you into the groove of the song as Sebastien Grainger croons, “Take your beliefs and shake them out, all the way out.”
But it’s on ‘Moonlight’ that Keeler and Grainger push things out the furthest. The song kicks off with an insistent riff, overlaid with a quavering vocal, before building in intensity and is underscored by a section of double kick drums. ‘Moonlight’ draws on Grainger’s experience of getting jumped while on tour, and the song’s instrumentation evokes the chaos and brutality of the episode.
‘NVR 4EVR’ is both a straight-ahead rocker of a song – ultra-catchy and with a hugely satisfying beat – and also an unusual, beautiful tribute. When a fan of the band, James Marshall Matthews Jr., passed away before being able to see DFA reunite live, his sister brought his ashes to spread in DFA’s trailer so that James could go on tour with them. “She gave me this vial of his remains”, Keeler relates. “When we were doing percussion overdubs for ‘NVR 4EVR’ I had to use them. The track starts with the riff and that shaker is actually his earthly remains.”
The lyrics to the record’s closing song may go, “I don’t go for no holy books / Those ancient rhymes, they ain’t got no hooks”, but Outrage! Is Now has certainly got them. The album successfully re(de)fines DFA’s sound, while retaining their core sensibility.