Secret Devil Sign
A million years ago, Black Sabbath, heavy metal’s original Saurians, electrocuted the blues to invent an ominous breed of devil-courting, mom-scaring music.
Shortly thereafter, disenchanted dudes all over the world set aside their bongs (for a second) and picked up guitars. Eventually, Sabbath’s unholy progeny splintered into myriad iterations. From fast and furious to operatic and awful (or awesome, if you prefer), metal’s permutations were legion and diverse. In Texas, one mutant enemy fermented underground and exploded from the dirt like a slinking, hard-drinking zombie. In the early 1990s, when Pantera picked up Sabbath’s subterranean boogie and welded it to the thorny anarchy of thrash, groove metal was born, and with it, the DNA for a new army of Texasfied head-bangers.
From this crucible sprang a bunch of Lone Star bands, especially here in the Metroplex, where bumping into either of Pantera’s Abbot brothers at a club or topless joint was commonplace. If you weren’t into Pantera, there was also a little band called The Toadies, who spread their version of hip-shakin’ Texas hard rock nationwide. That’s why when you listen to Rock and Roll Resurrection, the debut e.p. from Dallas’ Secret Devil Sign, you may feel as if you’re looking at a metallic family tree, dead limbs, rotten fruit, and all.
The foursome is a North Texas metal supergroup of sorts. Though the guys in the band all use ironic, referential pseudonyms (Eddie Habbit, Ringo Straw, John Paul Jonesin’, Bong Scott), their real names may not mean much to the ‘tweener metal set, but they should. The SDS guys have played in defunct major-heavies such as Pornlab, Stink Bug, and the legendary Slow Roosevelt. The thing about all of those bands is that at one point they were all on the cusp of going national, and they all rubbed elbows with the aforementioned members of Fort Worth-Dallas rock royalty, but the Big Time fell through. Thus, it’s not surprising that Resurrection harks to a high school yearbook, circa 1989, and specifically the cheeky pentagrams and joints drawn by your loser buddies. Ah, the good ol’ daze.
The record opens with “Blistered,” a roaring swing about the nagging inconvenience of vampirism. Or maybe a bad acid trip and a killer case of paranoia. Or maybe even the guilty, manic glee of thrill-killing. Whatever the tune’s really about, it’s gonna end badly, but SDS refuses to thwart its relentless momentum. Over slicing, distorted guitars, ax-man and lead singer Eddie Habbit growls, “They couldn’t see what I’d become / Burnt to a pile of ash from the burning sun / I wondered if I’d ever change my ways / Or die right here a sad, sick slave.” Drummer Ringo Straw and bassist John Paul Jonesin’ bop and pound like homicidal bikers armed with sledgehammers, and you have little choice but strap yourself in for the SDS hell-ride.
From there, the e.p. throttles up to “Everybody Likes Me,” a relentless, full-bore rocker fueled mainly by Habbit’s vocal hysterics and second guitarist Bong Scott’s rusty meat-hook riffage. But at this point, in the middle of the disc, you may be struck with the sobering feeling that you know where all of this is heading. While the music manages to approximate the overall essence of its forebears, it lacks The Toadies’ stilted creepiness or Pantera’s lurching nihilism. Sure, Rock and Roll Resurrection has its moments, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard a million times since Sabbathasaurus ruled the Earth.
Sat w/Zen Tree, Strapped, and Deaf Angel at The Aardvark, 2905 W Berry St, FW. 817-926-7814.