As previously expressed in these pages, the concept behind the new Encoffination record is "the glorification of death: an offering to the embodiment of death’s creation, and to sing the wretched hymns of death’s omnipresence, to kneel to death’s crown as we all shall fall under death’s eventual grasp...If the last record were a tool to teach about death, this record is that creation." Given the six mentions of death in that pull quote alone and the fact that it comes from vocalist/guitarist/bassist/funeral director Ghoat, it's not surprising that death permeates his playlist. While most of his picks forgo the death and doom in which Encoffination traverses, the duo's latest LP, III - Hear Me, O' Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs), provides plenty of that. After you check out his selections, you can pick up a copy of said LP, which dropped on Tuesday, here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFW7-sAy53w
Steve Earle's "Ellis Unit One" (from 1996's Dead Man Walking OST) This is a powerful song about growing up and being confronted with the realities of life and death. I myself am a pretty staunch opponent of the death penalty (this isn’t the forum so I’m not going into it), and “Ellis Unit One” tells a story of a young man being forced to grow up and go to work at the local prison like the males of his family have done before him. The paradox of the men desensitized to the horrors of execution and the emotional burden it creates paints a pretty morbid and real picture. The nightmare Earle sings about in the last verse (“Even Jesus couldn't save me...he don’t live on Ellis Unit One”) is legitimately scary as fuck. This is one of the darkest songs ever written. It’s haunting.
Townes Van Zandt's "Dead Flowers" (from 1993's Roadsongs and 1998's The Big Lebowski OST) Townes Van Zandt is in good company with the track above, as Steve Earle has long been very outspoken about the genius of Van Zandt. Hell, not only did he do a album of his covers, he named his son after him. This also being from a movie soundtrack is purely coincidence. “Dead Flowers” is a Rolling Stones song and was buried on Side B of Sticky Fingers. I fucking hate the Rolling Stones and their version of this is not all that great. If there were ever a time someone really made a cover their own, it’s now. Like many of Van Zandt’s song, it’s a story of lament and sadness, self-deprecation and regret. Van Zandt is the pure epitome of a tortured artist and this song portrays that eerily well.
Danzig's "Going Down To Die" (from 1994's Danzig 4) When I was in mortuary college, we had to give speeches one day, with the topic being related to death. I gave some rambling diatribe about death being the penultimate experience of life--it’s the one thing we will all get right one day. Death equals perfection. Everybody already thought I was weird; that sealed it. I ended my speech by reading the lyrics of this song to the class of 90, which was met with blank stares and uncomfortable silence. This is not only my absolute favorite song from 4p (such an unheralded, underrated album), but probably top three Danzig songs. Glenn’s voice is absolutely untouchable (“I'm sayin’ goodbye...” at 2:05 is fucking panty-wetting) and the sullen, '50s vibe in the main riff is as cold as the band ever sounded. If Danzig ever wrote their homage to a '50s teenage tragedy song, this is it. I’ve repeatedly told my wife that I want this song played at my funeral--I want to bum everybody out the best I can.
Loss's "Open Veins To A Curtain Closed" (from 2011's Despond) If any band were to be the embodiment of the term "funeral doom", it’s Loss. They happen to be good friends of mine (vocalist/guitarist Mike Meacham and I also play together in the occult black metal doom outfit Rituaal), but beyond that, this song and album are just gloom incarnate. But whereas some bands of this ilk just drown you in sadness and depression, Loss creates a myriad of emotions with their guitar work, notably the long clean sections employed throughout the middle of “Open Veins...” The coda then almost plays out as a triumphant crescendo as the lyrics tell the story of a life ended and a pain released. Much like the weight of depression can be suffocating to those who suffer it, this song weighs heavy, but as the deed is done and the song moves on, it becomes a burden lifted.
George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (from 1980's I Am What I Am) It’s undeniable that this is one of the most iconic love songs ever written, but at its root, it’s a death song. It’s a song about a love ended upon death. The line “All dressed up to go away, first time I'd seen him smile in years” is a reference to the corpse and hits me right in the feels as a funeral director. There’s several little backwards references to the “he” of the song being dead and it’s so morbidly appealing. It’s such a blunt way to illuminate and posture death and ironic it’s done in such a beautiful way. The chorus of this song was my ringtone for years and everyone at the funeral home always got a kick out of it when it rang at inappropriate times. We’ve played this at a few funerals too and I always get a morbid satisfaction out of it, like they’re in on the joke.
*Order a copy of Encoffination's III - Hear Me, O' Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs) here
**For past Decibrity entries, click here