Artist: Million Dead
Album: A Song to Ruin
Despite only being together for five years at the beginning of the new millennium, Million Dead left quite an impression on those who were fortunate enough to hear them. Lead singer Frank Turner had a violent passion running through him, and energy which endowed itself into creating some stunning metaphysical lyrics, that defied the punk genre’s rather stale take on the use of words. It wasn’t just his lyrics that gave the UK band something else, but his stunning voice which went from raging screams to melodic chants in a matter of seconds.
A Song to Ruin, the band’s first album is a blisteringly powerful piece of work. Opening with ‘Pornography for Cowards’, Turner screams an introduction to his audience, immediately asking questions of us in a way only he knows how. “now here’s a poser for you: you know sexism, the social scourge of the sixties seen as singularly responsible for a plethora of ills? well the reaction, after starting well, has moved from the sublime to the ridiculous“. Turner is a clever man (getting an education at Eton apparantly does that to you) and he’s taking no prisoners with his words.
The majority of the album is made of heavy riffs that immediately entice you to move your head. Definite highlights include ‘Breaking the Back’ which deals with the strains of living a life that just seems to be all work, a situation everyone has been in and ‘Smiling at Strangers on Trains’ which kicks off with furious intent and closes with Turner pouring his heart out over a thrilling backdrop of furious drumming and guitars, performed by Ben Dawson and Cameron Dean respectively.
The sheer passion and energy put into this recording is what makes this album one that you just have to hear. The songs are so thoughtfully performed, honest and brutal to the point where you just sit back and start ruminating on your own existence. It doesn’t try to be anything too grandiose – the punk roots remain a fundamental starting point for all of the songs, including the slower tracks such as ‘The Rise and Fall’ a song which just grows and grows into something absolutely beautiful, and acts as a wonderfully climatic ending.
Incidentally, since the band tore apart soon after releasing their second album (Harmony No Harmony) Frank Turner has continued his musical ventures, rediscovering his love for folk music. As ghastly as that sounds at first, he has fused the sheer punk attitude of Million Dead into his new songs, and he remains a talented and fascinating artist to listen to.
This is a fantastic example of what the UK can offer. Raw production values, an album that was literally made by sweat, blood and tears and it sounds all the much better for it. At only 45 minutes it looks as if it might be a bit short, but when those 45 minutes are crammed this tightly with such poignant songwriting (almost a shocking adjective to use in regards to a punk album) it will remain an album that sticks with you forever.