Nottingham’s The Death Notes took the unusual and possibly brave step of replacing a female singer with a male one. Based purely on hearing the songs on second album ‘Lost And Found’, the switch seems like an inspired one with new frontman Mark Saxton the perfect foil for the band’s gothic-flavoured brand of post punk.
The Death Notes build and build their songs, slowly ratcheting up the intensity and breathlessness to an almost intoxicating level. The opener ‘Panacea’ is a brilliant case in point. Naturally it sounds nothing like what the title suggests; there is no universal remedy here. A moody bass, electronic squiggles and Saxton’s bleak vocals (“don’t you come round here” he sneers) put paid to this. However, in this case, the glummer this band are the better.
‘Malice’ lets in brief rays of light and hope via its chiming guitar and Saxton’s higher vocal register on some sublime verses. Then the song takes us on what will be a familiar dark path, rising towards a chorus which is powerful, moody and euphoric in a satisfyingly gothic way. ‘To The End’ is even better; the band positively soaring by the time they reach their triumphant chorus. Along the way, ‘Blowtorch’ balances smooth synths with heavier guitars whilst those hearing ‘Damnation’ will be reminded of those lengthy anthemic singles The Mission used to put out in the late 1980’s.
If there is an area to suggest improvement, it would to be vary the song structure and pace slightly with the band sounding rather jaded by the end of the album. Apart from the slightly Eastern-influenced ‘Scream’, the band rarely attempt to move away from moody beginning to shouty chorus but to be fair, most of the time they pull the trick off brilliantly and the rough and ready production only adds to the defiant, underdog nature of the songs. It seems obvious to make favourable comparisons with those other Nottingham-based veterans of glum rock, Six.By Seven, but one can also detect the tension and relentlessness of 120 Days and mid-80’s period Killing Joke beneath this highly appealing gloom.
The Death Notes Bandcamp
Six.By Seven, Killing Joke, 120 Days, The Mission, Hearts Fail