Of all the great heavy music that’s happened in 2012, I find myself being the most interested in the handful of bands that have openly defied the trappings of heavy music both musically and conceptually, while at the same time being embraced by the metal community. I’m thinking of bands such as Wreck and Reference, Menace Ruine and Author & Punisher; bands that have forged unique and innovative identities for themselves without adhering to the guitar/bass/drums format. You can add Fort Worth, TX duo Pinkish Black to that short list; their self-titled debut album is a drums/synth/loops/voice fuelled exercise in gothic/death rock exellence that nods to the past as it creeps towards the future.
Opening track “Bodies in Tow” immediately sets the tone for the album; it’s an eerie track that slowly worms its way into your skull with down ‘n’ dirty synthesized bass and droning vocals. The atmosphere is thick, chilling and hypnotic, dragging you down into Pinkish Black’s world of perpetual midnight. There is a tension here that recalls Bauhaus, tempered with an underlying feeling that the entire endeavor could be swallowed up by madness at any moment; this is especially evident on “Tell Her I’m Dead,” a track featuring a mid-song freakout that brings to mind The Birthday Party at their most unhinged. No matter how dark things get though, Pinkish Black never lose sight of their inherent pop sensibility; these songs are as catchy as they are heavy and experimental, the melodies often recalling the ghosts of ’80s synthpop slowed to a dying man’s crawl.
The tracks are aided and abetted by a production scheme that’s appropriately scuzzy yet clear enough for the listener to discern everything that’s going on; this allows the album to conjure a morbid and dare I say it grim soundscape that makes a lot of today’s underground black metal sound like child’s play. Pinkish Black is supposedly named after the blood-stained walls drummer Jon Teague and vocalist/keyboardist Daron Beck saw when they found their former bandmate after he’d committed suicide; the feeling that a horrific, unexpected discovery is waiting for you just around the corner or on the other side of the door permeates the duo’s music.
The only real problem with Pinkish Black is that at just over thirty minutes it feels painfully short; this is the kind of music I want to get hopelessly lost in for hours on end, basking in its spectral deadlights. Pinkish Black prove that death rock is alive and well with this stunning debut, a great album to listen to on headphones, alone in a pitch black room. I honestly can’t think of a better endorsement than that.