WITH A LINE-UP featuring ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick, In Flames/Engel guitarist Niclas Engelin and vocalist Apollo Papathanasio (Firewind/Spiritual Beggars), We Sell The Dead arrive with reputations to uphold and expectations to meet. Unlike the vast majority of projects like this, wherein several celebrated veterans join forces to varying degrees of creative success, We Sell The Dead arrive seeming fully formed and quite distinct from anything that those involved have done before. Inspired by the alluring grimness of the Jack The Ripper mythos, Heaven Doesn’t Want You… is a purposeful exercise in macabre heavy metal melodrama, but not one that conforms to a familiar formula.
Lightly dusted with cadaverous atmosphere, songs like Leave Me Alone and Turn It Over owe plenty to 80s Sabbath and gothic rock but for once the old cliché about bands sounding like the sum of their influences and experiences rings true; despite doing nothing especially radical, We Sell The Dead sound impressively, if weirdly and very subtly, original. Even something as straightforward as Trust, an epic doom song with a gloriously overwrought chorus, pulls off the neat trick of sounding simultaneously familiar and almost overwhelmingly fresh. Similarly, Pale And Perfect’s brooding prog metal surge hinges on lumbering, detuned alt-metal riffs that nobody sane would consider particularly radical and Imagine is a cheerfully straightforward exercise in rumbling melodic metal, but somehow the sense that one has heard all this before never arrives. It certainly helps that, as ever, Apollo sings every word as if he is pleading with the Ancient Gods – or, perhaps, Jack the Ripper himself – for mercy. As comfortable on a febrile, stripped-down ballad like Too Cold To Touch as he is ranting his soulful way through opening epic Echoes Of An Ugly Past, the singer is arguably the true star here.
Fittingly, there are many moments here when the band sound every bit as thrilled by the whole thing as they doubtless hope the listener will be. In an era where many bands seem content to mimic each other in a futile dance of creative banality, We Sell The Dead stand out like a lantern in the murky, 19th-century London mists.