Following up their 2016 LP, Machine, Dallas darkwave/post-punk’s Aztec Death return with Consequence. Brothers Michael (bass) and Christopher (guitars, vocals) Ortega, along with drummer Cristian Garcia, have produced a tightly wound, yet spacious release that sounds perfectly modern, even when it recalls the past sounds of Joy Division and Bauhaus. Across the EP’s five tracks, it’s apparent that the band has grown as songwriters, honing their vision into a cohesive sound that’s less sprawling as that heard on Machine.
Opening track, “Eric,” features a buzz saw guitar line that lingers beneath the bass during the verses before emerging later as a searing lead. As Ortega sings “Why don’t you take off, that smile when you scoff,” it’s apparent that things are uncomfortable for our narrator – and the song manifests itself accordingly. “Exclusive” features Rosegarden Funeral Party’s Leah Lane on lead vocals and leans closer to New Order than Joy Division. With a crystalline guitar part that stutters beneath Lane’s vocals, this is among the more infectious songs on the EP. Indeed, the vocal melody drives the song forward, but it doesn’t sound like Rosegarden, rather firmly Aztec Death. For whatever reason the band chose to giver her vocal duties, the results validate the collaboration. The next song, “Climax,” opens with a thick bassline and tight drum pattern before it opens up to a taut and propulsive rhythm. The track is a perfect example of how the minimal approach the band takes with it’s three instrumentalists delivers a sum greater than its parts.
Likewise, “Loretta” shows how guitar, bass, and drums fill the ambience. Neither fighting for space nor pushing the soundscape to its limits, the band clearly knows how the interplay among instruments can combine to create a tension that will either climax with a release or leave you gasping for air. Where the preceding tracks are all under four minutes each, the final track, “10,” clocks in at over nine minutes. There’s no indulgent musical masturbation here, rather the band shows they’re adept at mixing changes in tempo and unconventional song structures with the contagious vocal and instrumental melodies of the preceding tracks – all the while never losing the attention of the listener. Things either slow to a crawl or pick up pace to a determined stomp; either way, the listener remains on a tight rope of anticipation.
Lyrically, themes are left to the individual to interpret. Whether you apply the words to your current circumstances, relationships, or avoid deeper meaning altogether, you’ll soon find them pulsing through your mind. Indeed, this is what gives each song depth when clear explanation is difficult to articulate. Consequence may have dark undertones, but if you don’t find these songs purely delightful your taste in music is questionable.
– J. Kevin Lynch
Aztec Death plays Three Links on September 15th with Chicago dark-wavers Wing Tip, New Orleans’ Empty Model, and Dallas’ own Rosegarden Funeral Party. More info at the Facebook event page, here.