The Dead Room
Category: Electro / EDM
Album: Every Good Boy Dies Free
Blurb: With its sights set firmly on the dance floor, this Chicago electro/EDM act delivers a one-two punch of sociopolitical poignancy set to some downright catchy beats.
Having steadily built up a reputation in the Chicago music scene as a DJ and mixing engineer, working in the studio and onstage with the likes of GoFight, The Gothsicles, and Angelspit, Matthew “S@int” Slegel formed The Dead Room as what he describes as “the ashes of an original idea gone wrong.” Given the range of styles and modes approached on his debut album, Every Good Boy Dies Free, this would seem as apt a description as any, driven by his insistent beats, infectious bass lines, and a message to stand against societal injustice. Topped off by numerous samples of American and British PSAs and speeches and a few guest vocalists, Every Good Boy Dies Free comes off as a rather delightfully schizophrenic album – at times, enjoyably danceable, and at other times, disturbingly caustic.
One such example of this sonic dichotomy is the song “Lonely,” as shrilly warbling synth effects and strident beat evoke a primal atmosphere offset by soulful vocals more befitting an R&B song, manipulated to create a blend of off-key effects that make for a downright catchy song. This catchiness is further explored in the GoFight remix with a much more straightforward and traditional song structure, making it a rather perfect radio single. It is clear throughout Every Good Boy Dies Free that Slegel is utilizing his DJ skills as tracks like “Penetrate Your Soul,” “Unite,” “American Terrorist,” and “Get Mad” are wrought with scratchy synth harmonies, booming bass drops, and pumping beats simply too striking to stay off the dance floor, the use of samples on the latter two tracks being especially noteworthy for conveying The Dead Room’s sociopolitical message while also programmed and manipulated in such a way to enhance the rhythms and get as stuck in the listeners’ heads as the most poignant vocal melody. “Fun” is almost aggressive in its playfully seductive ambience, the echoing sample of “I’m going to turn you on” almost dissonant against the sexy – yet strangely and subtly detached – vocals atop a sparse arrangement of monotonic bass and pad swells, while “Pushr” slows the pace down with a repetitive beat and steely synth arpeggio complemented by glitch-laden samples and waxing and waning refrains that evoke a proto-EBM feel akin to the earlier more experimental Front 242.
Overall, Every Good Boy Dies Free achieves what it sets out to do, setting its sights firmly on the dance floor while the samples almost subliminally convey The Dead Room’s message. Speeches from pseudo-religious figures like Jimmy Swaggart and Richard Wurmbrand are effective in their irony on the ills of drug use and sexual fulfillment while Charlie Chaplin’s speech from The Great Dictator is still as poignant today as it was 75 years ago. More than anything though, The Dead Room takes the conventions of modern electro and EDM and mangles them into an enticing concoction that is familiar in its rhythmic qualities, yet bears an attitude much more akin to industrial, making Every Good Boy Dies Free a worthwhile listen if not an essential one.