Death From Above 1979


An elephant in your living room. Ask rhythm and metal duo Death From Above 1979 to describe their music, and that’s a common response. Indeed, the massive sound of their debut LP, “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine” is sure to scrape the walls and shatter furniture — that is, if you can fit it through the door.

Using only a drum kit, bass guitar and occasional synthesizer, the metal this Toronto two-piece make is mammoth on the dance floor. Drummer/vocalist Sebastien Grainger’s tortured wail could make Ozzy Osborne reach for a cough drop, but his drumming style pummels the head-banging reflex straight into the hips. Sharing this dichotomy is bassist Jesse Keeler, who saws off meaty hooks reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age — or even a sped-up Black Sabbath — and aligns them with Grainger’s persistent high-hat for a club-track intensity.

Nods to punk, soul and the blues are found throughout, but the pair is no stranger to the DJ scene. Keeler even says that the fuzzed-out riffs on the single “Romantic Rights” were originally written for house music and that remixes for The Futureheads and Bloc Party are in the works.

Formed in 2001, DFA79 added the year of Grainger’s birth after the scent of a lawsuit wafted northward from New York’s DFA label, home of Black Dice and the LCD Sound System (also in town this month). Aside from the ability to set bodies in motion, the two DFAs share little in common.

The same goes for parallels with art-thrash duos like Ruins and Lightning Bolt. The tools (and volume) compare, but DFA79 prefers to use melody and structure to their advantage instead of shunning them altogether. Songs may hit like a hurricane, but most choruses wouldn’t be out of place on a Smokey Robinson record: as distortion throbs on “Rights,” Grainger persuades his girl to start a family, screaming “We could do it, it’s right romantically.”

How can such sweet sentiments work in this maelstrom? Well, like a kiss that busts your lip, it’s all in the delivery.

Recommended opening bands are the atmospheric OOIOO in Osaka and the double-percussion, whisper/scream dynamics of zOoOoOm in Tokyo.