Dead Skeletons is an intriguing band to me, both due to its sound and the intersection between musical and physical art. We visited artist and Dead Skeletons member Jón Sæmundur Auðarson’s DEAD Gallery in Reykjavik last year and were captivated by his art – and not just his screen-printed 12″ and 7″ records. While there we picked up the two-song 12″ Dead Comet, a one-sided record that features a screened image on the B side. Since then I’ve kept my eyes open for other Dead Skeletons records, so I was interested when I came across this 10″ single for “Dead Mantra” on eBay. I won’t lie – the price was a bit high, but after a couple of glasses of wine it wasn’t too hard to convince myself to click the “Buy It Now” button.
Like the Dead Comet 12″, this record is also one-sided, though in this case with an engraved B side. I have a few other records with engraved/etched B sides as well, most notably Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Smoking Acid and Devo’s Now It Can Be Told, but in those cases the etching feels more like an after thought, like they didn’t have enough music to fill up the other side, while on Dead Skeletons record it seems very intentional. To me the Dead Skeletons experience moves beyond just the music, and it includes the physical details that Auðarson incorporates onto the record and jacket as well.
Musically “Dead Mantra” is as advertised – it’s very much a mantra. It has a droning quality, especially to the vocals, which are deep and have a very pronounced cadence. The music has a repetitive rawness about it that fits in with the overall vibe. It’s powerful, it’s driving, it’s coming at you like an unending desert caravan. Even when the vocals switch from male to female, the effect remains the same. According to the interwebs the vocal mantra translates to “He who fears death cannot enjoy life,” which I certainly can agree with.
It’s powerful music that comes from a very elemental place. Probably not for “casual” listening, but if you’re in the right zone it packs a punch.