AMN Reviews: Death Drag – Shifted (2018; Iluso Records)

This UK-based quartet navigates an instrumental path somewhere between metal, post-rock, and John Zorn, incorporating these influences into a novel amalgam of structure and free improvisation. Consisting of Mike Caratti on drums and compositions, Roberto Sassi on guitar, Sanitago Horro on bass, and Luke Barlow on keyboards, Death Drag tempers their manic tendencies with raw atmospherics.

A perfect example is the juxtaposition of the first two tracks. Golden Root Complex is twelve minutes of ambiance with a heavy emphasis on guitar and keyboard drones. Bass and rattling percussion join around the three-minute mark, as the group slowly builds towards an open improv. Controlled feedback and short motifs head in the direction of noise-rock, but the group maintains an unusual balance between direction and exploration. In contrast, Uncredited Corpse is all-out Zornish improv with speed-picked guitar, rumbling bass lines, and crazed drumming. Somewhere in the middle, a short drum solo provides an introduction to a movement including discordant riffing that evolves into a reprise of the freedom with which the track begins.

While aggressive, Shifted also exhibits a degree of subtlety that may take several listens to fully appreciate. Despite the heavy guitar work, Death Drag eschews standard metal forms. Somehow, they manage to move together in a cohesive fashion while simultaneously heading in different directions. A highly recommended release.