Now You Know: Dead Register

Saturday, 4th June 2016

Formation: 2013
Location: Atlanta, GA
Style: Moody, post-doom, dark rock, or whereabouts.
Personnel: M. Chvasta (vocals, bass VI, bass, effects); Avril Che (bass synth, keys, textures, vocals, live visuals); Chad Williams (drums)
Latest release: Fiber (AVN Records)

In this scribe’s 15-plus years of doing the metal journo ‘thang, never before has the term “sore prehensile green thumbs” been thrown our way until this very piece with Atlanta’s Dead Register. “Prehensile,” in case you were of interest, means, loosely, taking hold of something. It was vocalist/bassist M. Chvasta’s way of describing how the band fits (or doesn’t fit) into the landscape of the Atlanta music scene, one that is heavily dominated by rap, hip-hop, and garage rock. Being oddballs seems to suit Dead Register just fine though, as their latest effort Fiber finds the trio engaging in a unique brand of moody, melancholic metal/rock, one that certainly doesn’t fall into a pre-determined niche, let alone open the band up for instant tagging.

Such a disparate sound certainly requires a distinct brand of unity, with the band starting out as an industrial/post-doom project before drummer Chad Williams joined the fold in 2014. To further add intrigue to the mix, Chvasta and Avril Che are married. “Atlanta’s a small town,” begins Chvasta. “We all three share overlap in our friend groups. There aren’t any bad vibes or band drama. We all ride velocipedes, sometimes together. Oftentimes the gears are fixed, so you know we’re really cool. All of us have varying degrees of grey hair. Chad and Avril drink stinky bitter beer. I drink delicious dark roast coffee with hint of cream and a touch of dark chocolate sauce. I also squint in the mirror and pretend that I’m young. Pedal hard, play harder. Sometimes I lose my dentures when I hit a bump. Go team.”

The band’s sound hovers around groove-addled alternative Goth, plodding doom, and an undeniable atmospheric pulse. As we noted above, such subgenre tags and/or descriptions may not be appropriate for a band like Dead Register. Between Chvasta’s excellent clean vocals and Che’s domineering bass synths, there is no formula for songwriting. It just happens, or according to Chvasta, is “akin to popping a cyst.”

“I write overly busy lines, half-time them, then we transcribe the bass parts onto synth bass… and it gets HEAVY. Even the lousiest wimpiest lines seem to sound skullcrushing in Avril’s low register, especially at these creeping/lumbering tempos. Chad then brings the tub-thunder and the glue with tasteful restraint (He’s a black metal guy struggling to resist the overpowering urge of thee blast beats). Lightly shaken in near-slow-motion, not stirred, and definitely not blended.”

Slipped into the band’s accompanying album biography was mention of the Cure. Certainly an acceptable influence in the metal spectrum, the Robert Smith-led gang have provided multiple albums worth of melancholic, dreamy material, a lot of which would seem to be ripe for the picking by a band like Dead Register. When queried by us regarding The Cure, it appears Chvasta and Che are far from being on the same page, however.

“She’s hated The Cure until about two years ago,” says Chvasta. “Sidenote: She HATES hearing chimes in songs. I’d say that I’m a huge fan of about five of their songs. Just about every show that we play we get a, ‘OMG U R SO HEAVVIE,’ or ‘U GUIEZ R LIKE, THE CURE, BUT LIKE, HEEEEAVY.’ Or, ‘Nice loafers, they look quite light.’ Deep southern drawl guy posed the question, ‘Ya’ll’re kinda fancy, ain’t ya?’

“It’s weird, I loathe most of The Cure’s catalog, and especially their painfully sugary radio jingles,” he continues. “But when they write a good song, it usually ends up being pretty great. Like, breathtakingly amazing. Robbo Smith also plays the Bass-VI quite a bit, so there’s that comparison. Both of us also have ridiculous hairdos. I look like less of a creepy grandmother on stage though. I will gladly tip my hat to any diehard Cure fan in the audience. ‘Apart’ and ‘From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea’ are monumental and superb. That being said, I’d say I’m vocally much more Dead Can Dance than the Cure. Sidenote: I hate harmonicas—they’re a surefire way to a deep, ripping, painful, dry, cringe-worthy shit all over a song. You’re here still reading? Please, read on!”

The ensuing months of 2016 should find Dead Register trying to tour in small doses, or as Chvasta so eloquently states, “Smart touring strategies for old folks starting at the bottom.” Nevertheless, optimism remains high in the Dead Register camp, and rightfully so.

“I predict that there’s going to be a huge rush on painfully slow, post-gothic, doomy pop songs,” wraps Chvasta. “Hopefully we can be considered the godfathers of our fresh new genre, like Meshuggah to djent, Napalm Death to grind, or Metallica to butt-rock for suburban redneck dads. Enter me, sandman.”

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