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Thursday, August 28, 2014 
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Harder, Heavier Burning Brides

From the first blistering chords of "Heart Full of Black" to the frenzied scream at the heart of "King of the Demimonde" to the Nirvana-ish wail of "Alternative Teenage Suicide," Philadelphia's Burning Brides push the throttle wide open, making an unholy noise out of guitar, bass and drums.  Their second full-length, Leave No Ashes (V2), is, if anything, harder and heavier than 2002's Fall of the Plastic Empire, referencing such '70s metal heavyweights as Zeppelin, AC/DC and Sabbath, as well as latter-day hard rockers from Nirvana to Queens of the Stone Age.

Yet listeners who write Burnings Brides off as headbangers are missing half the picture.  The album, structured somewhat like Led Zeppelin's III according to guitarist/songwriter Dimitri Coats, starts with its hardest, loudest metallic tracks, cresting in "King of the Demimonde," then makes room for the band's more melodic, pop-leaning side with "From You," "Last Man Standing" and "Pleasure in the Pain" in the second half.  A couple of the best tracks — "Dance with the Devil" and "Century Songs" — seem  to split the difference, raging hard in parts and breaking for blasts of pure songfulness, very much as the title track from Plastic Empire did.

Coats said his friend Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, QOTSA) encouraged him to go wherever his songwriting process led him, even if the results seemed not to fit pre-existing expectations for Burning Brides songs.   He added that he believes fans will be able to make the leap, too.  "Although we have a reputation for going out on stage and ripping people's heads off, we think we can take our fans with us wherever we want to go," Coats said during a recent phone interview.  "The best rock 'n' roll albums — Rubber Soul, Let It Bleed, Village Green Preservation Society — have a wide variety of songs on them.  That's what we tried to do with this record, and that's why every song seems like a curve ball, like where are they going next?"

Coats recorded Burning Brides' first album, Fall of the Plastic Empire, in his garage, spending less than $2,000 on it.  The album was released by Chicago indie File 13 but, supported by blistering appearances at SXSW and other venues, it began to gain a buzz.  A bidding war ensued, from which V2 emerged the winner. Burning Brides embarked on a series of high-profile tours: supporting Queens of the Stone Age, Marilyn Manson, and Audioslave, and playing Lollapalooza. "It was sort of like winning the lottery," Coats said. "You don't go into music to make a million dollars or to become famous.  You do it for the love of the music.  But it's always nice when your job becomes what you would have been doing in your spare time anyway."

That success meant that this time around, with V2's backing, the band had access to better facilities and equipment, as well as the assistance of seasoned producer George Drakoulios (Black Crowes, Tom Petty).  Coats said that Leave No Ashes' distinctive sound, both heavier and smoother than the first album, reflects those extra resources. "The additional money meant that we could afford to go to a real studio with some of the better analog equipment and get those sounds that make people like you say, 'Your new record sounds a lot heavier,'" he explained.  "That has to do with money, believe it or not.  You can get bigger drum sounds, bigger guitar sounds."

The larger budget also allowed the band to supplement its three-person lineup — Coats on guitar, his longtime girlfriend Melanie Campbell on bass and Jordan Kourkounis (Delta 72, Hot Snakes) on drums — with Roger Manning, who plays the searing Farfisa solo in "Vampire Waltz" and piano on "Dance with the Devil."   But perhaps most important, Burning Brides' second record gave the band the opportunity not just to record its live sound, as on Plastic Empire, but to completely reimagine itself, not just once, but track by track.

For example, said Coats, it was clear from the start that "From You" was more like a pop song than any of the album's tracks. "So, we thought, why don't we give it a different texture?," he remembered.  "Instead of using the same guitar I always play, why don't we try a janglier kind of Fender Telecaster sound?  And let's try it through this amp, and then how about we put some organ here?  And then I'm kind of hearing a slide guitar part here, to give it a lift, and of course, we have to have harmonies.  So we just started layering the song with whatever it took to lift it into a place where it could be fully realized."

Coats spoke to me by phone just before the next-to-last show on a tour with A Perfect Circle, during which, he said, crowds had ranged from 2,000 to 10,000 people.  The drawback, though, was that almost every one of those fans was there for Perfect Circle and had to be won over. "Let me tell you something, it's not easy to walk out on stage in front of that many people who have never heard of your band," he said. "But we're doing a really good job, I think.  By the second or third song, there are pits forming, and crowd-surfing. We get the crowd going, get everybody in the place to put their arms in the air and make noise."

Winning over the rocker kids isn't just about fame or money for Coats.  "One of the greatest things about Nirvana," he said, "is that they turned on their fans to bands like the Melvins and Mudhoney and Sonic Youth."

He added that he saw Burning Brides as a gateway to classic older bands and more genuine current ones.  "A lot of these kids that we're playing to, they've never heard of The Stooges. Probably none of them have ever heard the really good Black Sabbath records, and a lot of these kids are into Tool and Deftones and all that, Marilyn Manson, whatever.  They've probably never heard of Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave, and a lot of them probably don't even know the best Cure records.

"Kids shouldn't have their taste in music held against them,” he continued. “They just need an alternative, and we're more than happy to be that alternative for them." — Jennifer Kelly [Monday, August 2, 2004]


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John Vanderslice Kicks Genre

Paul Duncan's Elusive Pop

Stephen Yerkey's Wandering Songs

French Kicks Complete 'Two Thousand'

Spazzy Romanticism: Love Story In Blood Red

Brain Surgeons NYC Rock The Big Questions

Jarboe's 'Men' Charts Turbulent Emotions

Delta 5's Edgy Post-Punk Resurrected

Blitzen Trapper Spiff Things Up

Minus Five: Booze, Betrayal, Bibles and Guns

New Compilation Spotlights Forgotten Folk Guitar Heroes

Chris Brokaw's Experiment In Pop

Old And New With Death Vessel

Silver Jews: Salvation And Redemption

Jana Hunter's Beautiful Doom

Vashti Bunyan Finds Her Voice Again

Nick Castro's Turkish Folk Delight

Katrina Hits New Orleans Musicians Hard

Paula Frazer's Eerie Beauty

The National Find Emotional Balance

Death Cab For Cutie's New Album, Tour

Heavy Trash's Rockabilly Rampage

Help The Wrens Get Their Albums Released!

Devendra Banhart, Andy Cabic Launch Label

Lydia Lunch's Noir Seductions

Bosque Brown's The Real Deal

PDX Pop Now! Fest Announces Lineup

Sarah Dougher Starts Women-Focused Label

Jennifer Gentle's Joyful Psyche

Mountain Goat Darnielle Gets Autobiographical With 'Sunset Tree'

Mia Doi Todd's Beautiful Collaboration

Return of the Gang of Four

Martha Wainwright Finds Her Voice

Brian Jonestown Massacre's Acid Joyride

Solo Disc Due From Pixies' Frank Black

Heartless Bastards' Big-Hearted Rock

Mike Watt's Midlife Journey

The Black Swans Balance Old And New

Nicolai Dunger's Swedish Blues

The Insomniacs' Hard-Edged Pop

Yo La Tengo Collection Due

Juana Molina's 'Homemade' Sound

Beans Evolves

Earlimart's Songs Of Loss

Devendra Banhart's 'Mosquito Drawings'

Negativland Rerelease 'Helter Stupid'

Alina Simone Transforms The Ordinary

Sounds From Nature: Laura Veirs

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Sleater-Kinney Working With Lips Producer

The Cult Of Silkworm

The Evolution Of The Concretes

Devendra Banhart's Exuberant New Songs

Catching Up With The Incredible String Band

Gram Rabbit's Desert Visions

Three Indie-Rock Stars Unite As Maritime

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Jarboe's Many Voices

Phil Elvrum's Long Hard Winter

First U.S. Release For Vashti Bunyan Album

Incredible String Band To Tour U.S.

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Le Tigre Protest The Bush War Presidency

Joel RL Phelps: Bleak Songs Rock Hard

Time Tripping With Galaxie 500

Patti Smith Wants Bush Out!

Sharron Kraus: A New Kind Of Folk Music

The Fiery Furnaces' Psychedelic Theater

Harder, Heavier Burning Brides

Sonic Youth's Ongoing Experiment

The Dt's Do It Their Way

Poster Children Cover Political Rock

Rare Thelonious Monk Recordings Due

Uneasy Pop From dios

Beck, Lips, Waits Cover Daniel Johnston

Understanding Franz Ferdinand

The Truly Amazing Joanna Newsom

Mylab's Boundary-Crossing Experiments In Sound

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The Restless, Rootsy Songs Of Eszter Balint

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Devendra Banhart To Tour U.S.

The East/West Fusion Sounds Of Macha

Destroyer Gets Mellow For Your Blues

TV On The Radio Get Political

Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse To Play Lollapalooza 2004

New Music From The Fall

Apocalyptic Sound From The Intelligence

Fast And Rude With The Casual Dots

'Rejoicing' With Devendra Banhart

New Album, Tour From The Polyphonic Spree

Shearwater Take Wing

Sleater-Kinney To Tour East/West Coasts

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Funkstörung's 'Cut-Up' Theory

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Ex-Mono Men Leader Returns With The Dt's

Mountain Goats' Darnielle Adopts A More Hi-Fi Sound

Sun Kil Moon To Tour U.S., Europe

Nothin' But The Truth From The Von Bondies

Sultans Survive 'Shipwreck'

Sebadoh Reunite For Spring Tour

Xiu Xiu's 'Reality' Rock

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Oneida's Pathway To Ecstasy

Radiohead, Pixies, Dizzee Rascal To Play Coachella

Young People Tour Behind War Prayers

Pixies Tour Dates Announced

Ani DiFranco Tells It Like It Is

Deerhoof Back For 2004 With Milkman

McLusky Set To 'Bring On The Big Guitars' Again

Pixies Reunite For U.S., European Tours

American Music Club, Decemberists To Play NoisePop 2004

Damien Rice Set To Tour U.S.

The Frames Accept Your Love

Punk Rock's A-Frames To Re-Record Third Album

Finally! Mission Of Burma Record New Album

A Solo Detour For Ladybug Transistor's Sasha Bell

Return Of The Old 97's

Spending The Night With Damien Rice

Tindersticks Reissues Due This Spring

The Evolution Of 'A Silver Mt. Zion'

Neil Young Rocks Australia With 'Greendale'

Poster Children Back In Action

'The Great Cat Power Disaster Of 2003'

Chicks On Speed's Subversive Strategies

Oranger At A Crossroad

Peaches On Tour And In Control

Jawbreaker's Complete Dear You Sessions To Be Released

Belle & Sebastian + Trevor Horn = Sunny Pop Nirvana

Von Bondies' Pawn Shoppe Heart

Descendents Are Back!

Modest Mouse Touring; Album Due in 2004

London Suede Take A (Permanent?) Break

Saul Williams Wants You To Think For Yourself

The 'Zen' Sound Of Calexico

Elliott Smith Dead AT 34

Debut Due From Mark Kozelek's Sun Kil Moon

The Hunches: Music That'll 'Fucking Live Forever'

Vic Chesnutt Speaks His Mind

90 Day Men Cancel Tour

Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor Highlight SF Jazz Festival

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EP Due From The Polyphonic Spree

Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova Collaborate On EP

The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Ben Lee

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Sophomore Album Due From The Shins

Noise Rock From Iceland's Singapore Sling

Death Cab To Tour U.S.

Rufus Wainwright's Want One Is 'Family Affair'

Death Cab's Transatlanticism On The Way

Heartfelt Rock From Sweden's Last Days Of April

The Minus 5 Get Down With Wilco

Tywanna Jo Baskette's Southern-Gothic Rock

Xiu Xiu's Stewart Takes On 'Gay-bashing'

Portishead Producer Resurfaces Behind New Diva

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wire, Primal Scream On Buddyhead Comp

Yeah Yeah Yeahs To Tour West Coast

Sonic Youth, Erase Errata Kick Off 'Buddy Series'

The Locust Are One Scary Band

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ATP-NY Postponed 'Til At Least 2004

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Gits' Frenching The Bully To See Re-Release

Stephen Malkmus Is In Control

Superchunk To Release Rarities Set; Teenage Girls To Swoon As A Result

Summer Touring For The Gossip

Babbling On About Deerhoof

Irish Song Poet Damien Rice's O Released In U.S.

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Former Digable Planets Frontman Surfaces With Cherrywine

ATP L.A. Festival Rescheduled For Fall

Freakwater's Janet Bean Takes A Solo Turn

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Mark Romanek's 'Hurt' Revives Johnny Cash's Career

The Rapture's Post-Punk, Post-Dance Sound

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Liz Phair Still Pushing The Limits

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Young People's War Prayers On The Way



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