With videos depicting ritual sacrifice and murder, Theory of a Deadman’s latest album, Savages, is definitely more moody than funny.
“In the past, there’s often been some lightheartedness, or even a tongue-in-cheek quality to some of our songs” — such as the trashy behaviour lampooned in the hits Lowlife and Bad Girlfriend. “But this time, we wanted to get back to our rock ’n’ roll roots,” said the group’s bassist Dean Back.
“There’s a new moodiness to the record that shows our growth and maturity as a band,” Back added.
Lead singer and songwriter Tyler Connolly drew on the brutality of 21st-century culture as inspiration for the band’s fifth album. “I got nightmares from Terminator as a kid, and now you can watch real murders on YouTube. We’re so desensitized,” stated Connolly, who “dug in deep” for song themes.
“I became a weird hermit and I even grew a beard.”
The outcome of all his intense introspection can be heard when Theory of a Deadman performs a soldout show on Saturday, Nov. 15, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
Songs like Drown and the title track to Savages are hard-edged anthems to alienation — whether a measure of solace can be found in the solitude or only growing callousness.
In Drown’s video, innocence is literally snuffed out, while none other than Mr. Malice himself — Alice Cooper — makes an appearance in the Savages video to rant about the twisted values being passed to the next generation.
Connolly went to Arizona to meet Cooper, “who loved the song” and agreed to speak on it. “He’s a super nice guy,” recalled Connolly, who “stole” the spoken-word idea from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which contained a voice-over from the late actor Vincent Price.
“Alice killed it, I was so happy to work with him,” the singer added.
Back and the rest of the band were hoping to meet Cooper during the making of the song’s video, but the original shock rocker was busy with his world tour and had to tape his part separately.
The integrated video is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, with a group of boys showing their unfettered brutality as Cooper admonishes society for allowing it to happen.
Back’s favourite song on the release is the last one — The Sun Has Set on Me, which goes on for more than five minutes.
While its lyrics aren’t optimistic, the effect is lush, with vocals from a children’s choir creating an atmospheric loneliness.
Back mostly likes the groove and guitar riffs, which fade out to the sound of waves crashing on a beach. “I never was a lyric guy. With a lot of the bands I love, sometimes you never even understand what they are saying.”
Having grown up just across the border from Seattle, Back listened to grunge groups like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Mother Love Bone. But the band that most influenced his musical sensibilities — and his career track — is Guns and Roses.
Back remembers being more into hockey than music while a teenager. But he began taking guitar lessons more seriously after being turned on to Guns and Roses in high school. “Me and Tyler went to the same guitar school and we worked at the same restaurant together.”
The two eventually co-founded Theory of a Deadman (which also includes guitarist Dave Brenner and drummer Joey Dandeneau) in 2001, and the group was signed to Chad Kroeger’s 604 Records.
The alternative rock band went on to win legions of fans and a 2003 Juno Award for New Group of the Year.
While North American music trends have lately swung more toward a pop format on many radio stations, Theory of a Deadman just finished a European tour with Kentucky-based hard rockers Black Stone Cherry that packed arenas in the U.K and Russia.
“We didn’t know what to expect, ’cause we’d never been there before … but people were so gracious and the fans were amazing,” said Back, who’s looking forward to going back.
He’s also “pretty pumped” to play in Red Deer, again.