by Chris Donnell
I have to admit my surprise when I heard about the conceptualization of Death Index as a creative partnership between Floridian Merchandise front-person Carson Cox and Italian hardcore punk stalwart and Sgurd/Archaic member Marco Rapisarda. Carson Cox was never a stranger to hardcore (he briefly played bass in the controversial Church Whip) but his long history of playing with new-wave and post-punk tropes in Merchandise had me fooled into thinking that he would never touch explicitly heavy music again. While Death Index is still overflowing with Cox’s pretty-boy crooning it is Rapisarda who brings some truly impressive multi-instrumentation, songwriting, and production chops that grounds Cox’s hazy distant vocal style. The international duo recorded their debut self-titled LP between the three cities of Berlin, Tampa Bay, and Palermo. Despite such a scattered-seeming recording process their effort comes out with surprising clarity and cohesion. Death Index is packed with well written and produced fusions of goth, post-punk, metal, and noise-rock.
Carson has always had a fondness for weaving hardcore punk influences with his love for new wave and post-punk methods of production. These influences are front-and-center throughout Death Index as Rapisarda’s stomping mid-paced brand of punk sets the stage for Cox’s sweeping drawls. Rapisarda’s instrumentation is very reminiscent of his work in Archaic (mid-paced and effect-heavy hardcore). He very rarely pushes Death Index into the kind of high-speed scuzzy style hardcore that defined Sgurd by generally embracing a slowly churning and grinding song structure. The addition of minimal haunting keyboard lines further accents the unique weirdness of Death Index. It’s like aggressive goth-rock born from a swamp of distortion that is constantly waiting to suck and pull the listener back down to its depths.
Overall, Death Index is a wonderfully sludgy post-goth-punk assault. Rapisarda cannot be credited enough for making such a universally strong and cohesive record across all four of his instruments. The production is booming and every instrument can be cleanly heard despite the wall of distortion roaring at the listener. The middle section of the album is particularly strong with “Dream Machine”, “The Meal”, and “Little and Pretty” standing out as shining examples of the Death Index experience. If you were a fan of Cox’s earlier projects (including very early Merchandise) or anything Rapisarda has been involved with then you’d do well to check out this release. I, for one, am excited to see what kind of exciting directions this duo explores in the future.