Blood Money Part 0 LP
While the sequence in which the parts of Blood Money are supposed to play is a little unclear (that this LP is numbered part zero implies it’s supposed to be a prequel to Blood Money Part 1 – which was released in 2016 – and while the last song on this album is numbered 13 on the back cover, there are only twelve cuts because track 9 has been omitted), no question or debate can be lodged about the power of this album and the force with which Dope delivers it. From note one, the NYC-based band digs back to its roots and proved that the alt-industrial metal they unload on this, their seventh album, still taps easily into a dark, metallic and infectious vibe.
Listeners won’t be able to keep themselves from blinking in shock when, after a short, electronic intro, “No Respect” lands with a megatonic, metallic thud before rising to its feet and running with a frenetic urgency which is just flat-out unexpected. Metal is often more laden in tempo and chooses to rely on a sense of inevitability to suggest a sense of doom coming coming for listeners. None of that is the case here though; here, guitarist Andre “Virus” Karkos fires out a frenetic and nimble figure which immediately captures listeners’ attention and is perfectly complimented by Acey Slade’s bass (which both pushes forward as well as punctuating every barre) and Daniel Fox’s drumming. That miraculous blast from the band is pretty intoxicating, but the element which sends “No Respect” screaming over the top is Edsel Dope’s vocal. Taking a cue from Michael Cummings and Powerman 5000, Dope presents an infectious combination of menace and melody that progresses back and forth between vicious metallic assaults and vivid craft as any given moment in the song requires (see the difference in vocal tone through lines like, “You’ll get what you deserve” and “I’m so tired of your lies”).
After “No Respect” slams to a close, Dope shifts into overdrive so that their engine doesn’t overheat for “Believe” (which feels more than a little like a punch pulled) before blasting forth with the same energy level that “No Respect” featured on “Best Of Me” and then hitting the second great peak on the side, “Choke.”
While its title implies modifying the pressure in an intake manifold and thereby altering the air-fuel ratio entering an engine, “Choke” stands out from the rest of the A-side of Blood Money Part 0 because the production of the song gives it pristine clarity as well as unparalleled (in both the context of this album as well as any which may pretend to be its peer) aggression. Here, Edsel Dope’s hoarse vocal delivery lets listeners feel like that tone is deserved because the singer has already worked his instrument over pretty hard and completely – and the unrelenting crunch of Karkos’ layers of guitar on the song inhabits the same formal space as Mike Riggs’ best contributions to Rob Zombie’s early solo work, complete with the same kind of “up front” position in the mix of the song. In that way, “Choke” helps to refresh the running of the A-side of the album and restore it with a refined aggression that was present previously but featured a few more burrs in the mix which have all been planed out of “Choke” and its smoothness (of delivery) carries over easily into “Dead World” (which plays exactly as well as songs like “Living Dead Girl” did in mainstream “gothic” bars in the Nineties and early Millennium) and then introducing some solid and danceable New Wave colors into “Misery,” which closes the side. There, listeners may discover to their surprise that the gothic-electronic tones which once powered “Vampire Sex Bars” in the late Nineties and early Millennium didn’t quite die with the pandemic; while some critics will certainly call such turns gauche or passé, it could be argued that aping the movements of the undead means those sounds are capable of continuing in perpetuity and that “Misery” closes the A-side means listeners will be invigorated to see where the B-side may go next.
…And, ironically, the opening of the B-side marks the first significant misstep in the running of Blood Money Part 0: a cover of “Love Song,” easily one of the poppiest songs in The Cure’s catalogue. While any number of arguments could be made both for and against the potential inclusion of a cover of any other Cure song here, listeners of a certain age may wince when they hear a frustratingly over-borne and poorly constructed cover of “Love Song,” while those who are too young to necessarily know that the song is a cover at all will likely be put off by the differences between the power and performances on the A-side of the album and the over-earnest performance here. Throughout this performance of “Love Song,” Dope slices apart and re-structures “Love Song,” thereby robbing the song of the continuity that Cure fans once enjoyed about it and completely removing any of the romance which appealed to the “caked-on eyeliner” goth crowd. “Love Song” is, needless to say, not the best place to open the second side of Blood Money Part 0, but happily “Dive” follows that flop earnestly with what an arrangement and performance which shines brightest on the side. Granted, the bridge slides a little too close to feeling like the material which got used as entrance music in the WWE during its Attitude era and the “How did this become my fucked up life” rejoinder feels like a passage from the late Nineties which would have been better lost, but the instrumental textures showcased throughout the song and no time at all is wasted throughout the running on indulgence [“Dive” clocks in at three and a quarter minutes and touches every base it needs to without languishing once –ed].
With a good precedent set by “Dive,” the B-side earnestly feels as though it’s trying to surpass itself with each successive cut. “Parasite” relies harder on techno-grind histrionics like Ministry but without any amphetamine rush included while “Row” screeches it’s way through just three minutes and nine seconds of singer Edsel Dope questioning how much lower he can go while what sounds like a single sustained note from a saxophone hovers above him in the mix – seeming as though it wants to push him down.
The mix re-opens after “Row” lets out, and “Fuck It Up” re-establishes the crunchy, tech-metallic push that listeners will remember from the A-side, but with the benefit, in this case, of brevity (“Fuck It Up” clocks in at about two and a half minutes and features a change in attitude exemplified by petulant lyrics like, “So tell me something different – something that makes a difference that you could say with confidence”), and that energy remains high up to and including the closer “Wide,” which really lives up to its name as it spontaneously introduces a positive rotund low end to the mix, and bounces on it until the proverbial needle lifts. And when it does lift, even those listeners who (honestly, like this critic) weren’t completely sold on what Dope was laying down will find themselves reaching to start the running all over again. Granted, some listeners may not actually flip the record over again right away (yes, the B-side of Blood Money Part 0 features the greater number of good cuts), but there’s little doubt that listeners will make it there, eventually.
After having run front-to-back with Blood Money Part 0, there will be little doubt left in listeners’ minds that, yes, the ideas Dope first poured into an album seven years ago did benefit from greater examination and development – or at the very least a revival with the sense of refinement which can only come with the help of fresh lessons learned, after the fact. By the same token, the nature of Blood Money Part 0 – as a release – may help to clean some of the slates for Dope; after this, going back to offer fans more musical prequels might be advisable. The ideas that the band has developed have clearly improved with age. [Bill Adams]
Dope’s Blood Money Part 0 is available as a free download directly from the band’s website. Get it here.
Dope’s Blood Money Part 0 LP is out now. Buy it here, directly from Dope’s official store.