Artist: Dead Poetic

Album: Four Wall Blackmail

Scheduled Release Date: June 4, 2002

After listening to Dead Poetic's debut album, Four Wall Blackmail, for the last several weeks, one thing is sure: I can't get it out of my head. Sometimes that's a good thing, often it's a bad thing. Songs that get stuck in people's heads do so either because the songs are repetitive or do something unexpected. This disc has both types of songs.

Dead Poetic comprises Brandon Rike on vocals, Zach Miles on guitar, Josh Shellabarger on drums, and Chad Shellabarger on bass. They've been playing together for years, and the practice shows. The band's sound is tight. They're still young, though, and there's room for improvement. Several of the songs sound basically the same.

Miles' guitar playing is obviously at the core of the band's energy. He knows how to rock out, but his infectious playing is disciplined enough to keep things moving instead of stealing the spotlight. The Shellabargers follow his lead, adding depth to the music.

The sweet-and-sourness of Rike's vocals is refreshing: When he's singing, his voice has a Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) quality to it. But when he's screaming, there's nothing sweet about it. He screams until he's raw, then magically shifts back to his smooth singing voice. The balance is effective: Too much screaming would get old, but without it, the music would lose its edge.

Disappointingly, the one track where Rike doesn't scream, Bliss Tearing Eyes, is a gratuitous, slow-moving praise song, during which Rike takes on a bit of a 'boy band' nasal tone. Bliss Tearing Eyes is number seven out of 10 in the track list and really cuts into the flow of the album. 

Also disappointing are the lyrics, especially because this is the only song with lyrics that can be completely understood. Case in point: Bleed one more time for me / 'cause my heart is filled with loneliness / and this world is filled with loneliness. While that may be true, the song just feels too sentimental to really get any message across to the listener. The band's strength lies in its hardcore sound; they should stick to it.

Bliss Tearing Eyes follows my favorite track, Ollie Otson, a fast-paced song full of grooves. This one will get you thrashing and dancing about the room. Try not to listen to it -- as I first did -- while driving.

I played the disc for my college-age male friends and they absolutely loved everything about it. I think this is as good a barometer as any to gauge the album, although Four Wall Blackmail definitely is intended for the younger crowd.

Which reminds me of the other thing I can't get out of my head: "Hey Diane, when can I borrow your Dead Poetic CD?"