Friday, November 25, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 248 - downset. - Do we Speak a Dead Language?

By: March

Album – Do We Speak A Dead Language?
Artist - Downset
Key Players - James Morris – bass. Chris Hamilton – drums. Ares Schwager – guitar. Rey Oropeza – lead vocals.
Produced By – Roy Z

Release Date – September 10, 1996

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I try to mix things up on the site. Going 80's one time, to 90's alternative and even dipping in to harder stuff. Just felt like mixing it up.

Overview – This was the second full length album from Los Angeles California band downset. Blending rap metal, hardcore and alternative the four piece would be seen as a political band before they'd realize it. Singer Rey Oropeza's own father died had the hand of the LAPD so the band would turn to political and deeply personal songs. The band would tour, release a few albums, but never garner much mainstream success. They'd disband in May of 2009 just saying the band had “run its course”.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – Fifteen tracks in under fifty minutes gets started with the track “Intro” which is a segment of a speech from Martin Luther King with chimes and bass. “Empower” takes right off with the grinding fusion of rap/rock. Schwager finds big guitar riffs while Hamilton focuses his anger on the hi-hat. Oropeza pushes himself hard on the vocals and the band has that grinding heavy feel through out. Schwager and Morris have a good tandem run with Hamilton keeping pace and the tempo locked in. It is a heavy and hard intro track. Morris gets the intro on the track “Eyes Shut Tight” riffing a few times before the guitar and drums come in. Oropeza is a little less rushed on this track, but the track is still heavy, but the vocals are a lot less “shouted”. The band does some heavier stop/starts about 1:45 in to the track with Schwager really buzzing on his guitar and after a verse of that Morris gets up in the mix as the band settles back and Schwager throws some delayed guitar riffs over the top. It swells up again and gets a lot heavier. They repeat the chorus again and the track comes to a close, but not before Schwager gets another run. “Keep on Breathing” has Schwager starting with a distorted guitar before the band comes in quickly. Morris finds a tight groove and Schwager joins while Hamilton keeps it all in check. Oropeza continues be angry, and on point. His vocals may not be flashy, but they fit right in with the music. The band is good about some stop/start time signatures, usually with, in this case, a big bass riff to bring it all back in. Hamilton starts things off on “Hurl a Stone”. Oropeza is back to a quick vocal delivery, barking at times and giving tight rapped lyrics at times. Schwager found a great riff on this and won't shake it loose, which is fine with me. Schwager seems to go even faster on “Fire” and Morris and Hamilton are just fine playing along, as quickly as he is. The track has some backing “shouts” in the chorus as the big down beats get your head bobbing at a rapid pace. We seem to settle things down with “Touch” as Morris and Schwager both calmly play and Hamilton slowly rolls across the drum kit with some lush cymbal rolls. The tempo is set from Hamilton and suddenly it picks right up and Oropeza breaks the silence with the vocals asking if you have “any love in your heart?”. The song reverts back to the smooth intro for a time, then Oropeza opens it up again, the track follows this pattern for the duration. Schwager seems anxious to get things started on “Against the Spirits” and again Hamilton is happy to play along, he teases it some, but Morris comes in and it takes off. This is about as fast as the band has been, they are just in the zone and its all out there. Morris pulls a funky bass riff out before the full band gets back in to it and off they go again. This is some speedy stuff. Oropeza leads off “Sickness”. This is the first track that comes to mind where it is only vocals first, before the band comes in. We get full, and heavy, before letting Oropeza sing with the band easing up some. Still heavy, but a refreshing change from the norm of the record. One might think, due to the vibe of the record that a song like “Pocket Full of Fatcaps” has to do with bullets. Wrong. This has to do with spray painting. How gangster is that? It is actually pretty gangster. This was the lead single that I recall hearing from the album with its punchy drums and buzzing guitar. It seemed so new, so heavy and so on point. Check out the sample below, if you like stuff of this genre, you'll dig. “Sangre De Mis Manos” is sung in Spanish, but even language doesn't slow down the urgency and heavy vibe of the track. “Horrifying” continues what he have heard which leads in to a reprise of “Sickness”. The tracks all see like bookends. We actually get a piano??! intro on “Permanent Days Unmoving”. The vocals are spoken and it appears to be a soft spoken poem. The album closes out with “Ashes in Hand” a track which has Schwager and Hamilton slowly growing in intensity as Oropeza comes in shouting “sex kills” before the band gets heavier right along with him. Schwager uses some delay on this guitar again, while Morris and Hamilton grind the track forward to the point where Hamilton appears to grow two more arms and just goes wild on the drum kit. Suddenly we change directions, everyone eases off the throttle and the track wraps up. The track still rolls to silence until about 8 minutes when an unlisted track begins, again it starts out mellow and remains a loose instrumental jam.

Where are they now? - As noted the band broke up in 2009.
James Morris worked with a band Supervillain but their site hasn't been updated since 2005. I wasn't able to find much else on what the guys are doing now.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I saw the band one time opening for Deftones and Orange 9MM at the Middle East in Cambridge MA. I am not sure of the date due to a lack of a ticket stub. The downset page has a tour history, but it only goes back as far as 2000. This was on the tour for this record as I had the guys sign the cd.

FDF Overall Take – If you are a fan of bands like Rage Against the Machine you'll be right at home. Fast, heavy but still melodic at times. It might seem a little dated, but I hadn't listened to this record in a long time and found it refreshing for some reason. Honestly though if you like the style to begin with there is little for you to NOT like on this record.


Official Page
Facebook page.
myspace page

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Pocket Full of Fat Caps
Eyes Shut Tight

The album appears to be in print still. You can track it down here.


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