Dead Man’s Whiskey are a five-piece band from London, and In The Storm is their second album. Their website describes them as a hard rock band delivering anthems and power ballads with arena-sized ambition. So, what do they sound like? Well, the short answer is amazing.
Dead Man’s Whiskey – In The Storm
Release Date: 29 September 2023
Words: Mark Rotherham
The longer answer starts with their second album’s unsurprising first track, called Intro. It’s a slow, acoustic arpeggio start to the album, setting the atmosphere for dark, moody music to come. The instrumental slowly builds and becomes full-bodied, and then Masquerade just absolutely kicks your teeth in.
A fast catchy riff announces the song’s arrival with a full-throated twin guitar sound. Nico Rogers’ vocals have a slightly chorused sound that those of us who are of a certain age just absolutely loved way, way back in the ’80s. This is fast, foot-tapping Metal that you would imagine just everyone would love.
It’s suitably heavy but I can see it having a real commercial appeal. Hey, it’s worked for Iron Maiden for decades, so why not? This song comes complete with a soaring, shred-laden solo and really, really, really sets the listener up for a rollercoaster of a speaker-meltdown experience.
Up next is Ravens Call, a brooding, riff-laden doomfest of a song. If Masquerade lulled you into a sense of accessibility, then don’t be fooled. Here comes the bad stuff. Even the title exudes menace and danger, and the dark lyrics drip malevolence.
There are slow moments though, but that only serves to make the heavier bulk of this song seem even more so. The genre that we all know and love as Heavy Metal, once thought extinct with the grunge invasion, has a loud and clear future with Dead Man’s Whiskey. This is quality, driving Metal that will have bands like Voodoo Six looking very nervously over their shoulders.
Dead Man’s Whiskey tells us all about themselves with the next song, Who I Am, where a thundering drumline ushers in a ferocious riff. This is an introspective song of defiance and individuality, a theme that we probably all identify with, a theme we all celebrate.
You absolutely can’t have a Metal album, any Metal album, without at least one anthem that positively glorifies the individual against the world, and this song is it, just taking it to the man one more time.
Do Or Die has another slow, majestically booming bass start that leads into a gorgeous rippling solo-type intro. This song really slows down the pace without compromising its edge in any way. And with a title like Do Or Die, you just know what it’s about. The lyrics and production are solid with this song. It flows along like molten sword steel, its message of determination uncompromising and undefeatable.
This is a song to play loud in your ears as you stride to that interview for the job you’ve always wanted or to approach your heart’s desire and ask for that impossible date. With a song like this in your heart, you’re unbeatable and no one is going to tell you otherwise. God-dammit. I’m just loving my Metal as I listen to this album.
I like to think that Island In The Storm is what inspired the foreboding album cover: half-deserted tropical island, half-submerged skull. The song has a very harmonic start, but you just know it isn’t going to last. Super-fast guitaring scythes into your ears and meet in the middle of your cerebral cortex.
Once this song cranks it up, it just doesn’t take its foot off the pedal. It’s fast and chock-full of steroid energy and solidly sung vocals that are an absolute pleasure to listen to. The superb screaming, rippling solo is a shred fan’s delight. And then, inexplicably, the whole thing slows down.
“Like an island in the storm, we’re just waiting to be born.” What does that mean? Well, like all good lyrics, they can mean all things to anyone.
Following on is Fighting To Survive, a super-heavy intro that makes me wonder what Deep Purple would have sounded like if they’d just once embraced humbucker pickups. This is another excellent chest-beating, Metal-tastic tonsil-wrecker that once again touches on those oh-so-common themes about struggling with adversity and overcoming, complete with deep-voiced mono-syllable backing vocals.
Most really great Metal is nothing you haven’t heard before, but you know you’ve found it when you listen to it and think you’ve discovered the sound for the first time, and that seems to be Dead Man’s Whiskey’s secret weapon.
The quality remains consistent with Diggin’ For Fame, which just shoots out of the speakers and slams into you from a hundred paces. This song is all about Heavy Metal’s take on the most dangerous being known to man, the femme fatale on the road to riches.
You know her, you love her, and you’ll do anything for her, or so Dead Man’s Whiskey will have us believe. No delicate starlet, this, she’s made of tougher stuff, especially on this, one of the toughest songs on one of the toughest albums you will hear this year.
A new look at an old theme comes along with What’s Your Name, which is the album’s obligatory drinking song. It just chugs along and is probably Nico’s finest moment vocally on this album. For me, it has got single written all over it, with a fabulous start-stop riff and barnstorming, red-blooded chorus.
Let’s face it: Dead Man’s Whiskey have not reinvented the wheel, but what they have done is take every ingredient of the Metal recipe and come up with an amazing, enjoyable and utterly addictive end result.
Curve balls aren’t really Dead Man’s Whiskey’s thing, but they get close to it with Closer To You. It’s got a Beatles-like opening sequence, followed by slow, yes slow, tempo singing. So okay, it’s a ballad, the marmite product of all things Heavy Metal. Me? Meh, not hugely, really my thing, but let’s be objective here: it’s well put together, it’s still guitar-based, it still has the big vocals, and to be honest, I wouldn’t automatically skip to the next track at this point.
As far as ballads go, I’ll admit it’s still got enough going for it to keep me interested, which is kind of saying something. And you know what, it’s also got an absolutely blinding solo in it.
Into the home straight and you’re listening to Time. Wow, what an explosive intro. This one just smacks you around the head because it can, then laughs at you as you lie in the gutter, beaten and bruised.
A corrosive background riff that just melts together with the vocals and creates an utterly Metal connection, a colossal fusion of sound and lyrics. Time, what it means to each of us. We all see it differently, we all feel it differently, and this song is the theme for that concept, brought together with chorus guitar and insistent vocals.
The final track on this album is Fear Is Cold. It’s got a cosmic, ’60s hippy riff and lyrics, reflective and introspective, combined with the power of the ’20s. This is Metal evolution, all of the lessons of the past brought up to date.
Dead Man’s Whiskey are a kind of band I didn’t think were still out there, and this album plays like a set of songs you didn’t think were played anymore.
So let’s all just celebrate that Metal is still here, still relevant, that it still means something and still motivates us, makes us get up in the mornings, makes us want more, always more.
Let’s embrace it and realise that it is this one thing in our lives that makes us all bigger and makes us all strive to be one step higher than we are right now.
Such an empowering album. This is monumental Metal as we always want it to be, like we always want it to reach into us and like we always want it to lead us on to the next challenge in life.
Dead Man’s Whiskey played their only UK festival appearance of the year at Steelhouse Festival with Black Stone Cherry and Airbourne. “They’ve got the songs,” we wrote in our report, “and in vocalist Nico Rogers, they have yet another fantastic singer. Make You Proud tugs at the strings, whilst Masquerade is a rip-snorter to get things going.”
In The Storm
- Ravens Call
- Who I Am
- Do Or Die
- Island In The Storm
- Fighting To Survive
- Diggin’ For Fame
- What’s Your Name
- Closer To You
- Fear Is Cold
Dead Man’s Whiskey
Nico Rogers / Vocals
Billy Kons / Lead Guitar
Elliott D’Alvarez / Rhythm Guitar
James Titley / Bass
Charlie Gray / Drums