Dead Meadow is one of those bands that is fine with the way that they have always sounded. They have found what works, mastered these unique psychedelic drones, and have continued to release material that falls into their thick stoner haze as they continue down this path that they have chosen. The majority of fans know exactly what they are getting with each record and would not welcome the idea of Dead Meadow changing anything, exploring new territory, or giving their magical mix any sort of modern twist. Most like these gents just the way they are.
Dead Meadow's seventh outing, Three Kings, is a combination of live concert album, corresponding film (highly reminiscent to Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same), along with a few new studio tracks added into the mix. With Three Kings, the production is raw, fuzzy, and full of a primitive grit that gives Dead Meadow so much more of an effectiveness in their swirling mix of psychedelic space blues. Like their studio albums, absolutely nothing is overproduced on this live venture, adding even more of a vintage organic feel to the music that is already drenched in the hazy vibes of the late 60's and early 1970's. The live material ranges from all points of their repertoire with each song as strong as the next, despite some being newer material. Dead Meadow gives a stellar performance on each selection, living up to what is delivered on their studio material, at the same time expanding and elaborating when it is needed during the set. Another strong aspect to the live material is the fact that the audience noise has not been edited out at any moment, giving applause and crowd noise throughout. Jason Simon's voice is propelled loud enough to where his soft, almost delicate delivery is not drowned amidst the strong wash of Orange ampage and thundering drum parts.
With the five new studio songs, there is a bit more room to breathe than with previous material. Everything is spread out, almost sparse at times, and without the large wall of sound that usually accompanies most of what Dead Meadow has recorded. The sound is still massive, however much more dynamic for the most part throughout. "That Old Temple" features some phenomenal drum breaks by Stephen McCarty, bringing to mind a bit more Deep Purple and Hendrix influence than before not only on the percussive end of things but also in the vintage riff selections and placement. Another highlight from this new material is "Beyond the Fields We Know" complete with eerie female vocal accompaniment and some of Jason Simon's best guitar work to date.
Three Kings is a great addition to anyone's existing Dead Meadow catalog and also a great introduction to a band that continues to grow in popularity, as they live by their own rules and keep a sound that is extremely lo-fi and vintage. The new material shows great promise in what we have in store for us in the future and the live selections are a testament as to just how great this band is both on record and in a live setting. -Andrew Bryant