White Collar Sideshow return with their next iteration of shock rock, pulling out all the stops and adding new elements to their sound, resulting in a heavy, catchy, and thoroughly entertaining listen.
Hailing from Arkansas, the husband-wife duo known as White Collar Sideshow started in 2006 and toured for over 3 years with their original show, make than their original experience or event. During the first years and up through most of The Witchunt tours, they were joined live by Herr Schwein, and Leach both of which would contribute drums/percussion and add to the overall creepiness of the experience as they were in costume. Seeing them live is an experience you don’t soon forget. Combining frenetic drumming and percussion with a strong bass line played in front of video screens, they have enthralled audiences throughout the US in settings ranging from large festivals to small churches and auditoriums. The Witchunt (2012) saw them expand their sound with more electronic elements and add a horror like video backdrop to the visuals as well as establish a working relationship with Chris Baseford (Rob Zombie, John5, Avril Lavigne). That relationship continued as the band worked with Baseford again and now is signed to Curtain Call Records (Sony).
White Collar Sideshow continues to evolve their sound, with this iteration bringing in vocals by Veronica Benton, previously known as the Faceless Woman. Going into this album relatively blind, “Valley of the Skull” brings a host of surprises from the delta blues/western guitar to Veronica’s vocals coming in almost at the beginning. Throughout the album, her vocals are a great fit in the songs providing a great foil to TD Benton’s gruff, usually somewhat electronically altered vocals. One other immediate surprise is the metal rhythm section that comes in making comparisons to Rob Zombie and perhaps even bands like Ministry and Rammstein more fitting. The song itself sways back and forth between the delta blues/western- influenced part and the industrial parts and is a great intro for the rest of the album as it introduces the overall sounds very well and is so catchy.
“Bring Out Your Dead” is likely my favorite track on the album and even gives a nod to The Witchunt. We start out with a bit of a creepy into that shifts into a classic WCS music section with just bass and drums carrying things through the verse, but then that bridge section of “I’m melting, I’m melting and I don’t care who knows it” featuring more of Veronica’s vocals that add an oddly poppy feel and serves to move the song to the industrial guitars and this contrast conjures up all sorts of silly images and adds an element of fun to the song. By this point, I was noticing that WCS truly had embraced the “shock rock” label in its entirety in terms of sound but also in the creativity the genre has. Their previous album The Witchunt also would fall into that category but was a bit more one-dimensional in approach. In the first three songs on I Didn’t Come Here to Die the band is all over the spectrum, slowing things down considerably for the more atmospheric “Hug Me or Hate Me” which also showcases the different vocal styles of Veronica Benton as she goes almost full cartoonish for this song.
By this point, I was hooked and the album never really lets up. “American Psycho” even brings in some of the trademark WCS percussion elements in a rollicking song again backed by some of that delta blues/western guitar at points. This time the vocals are primarily just TD but with a bit less distortion in other songs and the gang vocals again make good use of Veronica’s contrasting tone and style. One can’t help but notice how well the production and mixing was handled by Chris Baseford (Rob Zombie, John5). He had worked with the ban on their previous effort and this is obviously a great working relationship as he gets the concepts the band has in mind. “My Warped Places” again starts out with that bluesy feels and Veronica and TD nearly in harmony in the slower intro part of the song and also into the faster, heavier section and then still together as they shift in the chorus and change styles again. As the verse progresses one gets the feeling that it will explode and indeed it does but then the song remains intense but picks up a great groove.
Longtime fans or even anyone who has seen WCS in the past may be wondering about Herr Schwein who was a big part of their visual presence and drums but has left the band. To me, “Pig in the Middle” works to almost keep him a part of the soundscape. Much of the song is driven by bass and drums like previous WCS songs but when the song shifts to more intense and faster sections, the driving guitar elements typically found in Ministry and Rob Zombie songs, makes its presence felt. Throughout the album, that driving fuller sound is employed very well and adds a new dimension to the band’s sound.
Samples of course play an important role throughout the album and open up the title track, “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight”, opens up the track which again goes to that delta blues/western feel guitar leading the music and verses, while Veronica Benton’s chorus provides a great contrast to TD’s vocals on the verse sections. As happens frequently on the album, the songs rhythms and melodies are catchy and often bouncy. “Tombstones for Eyes” fits into this category as well, but relies more on the distorted vocals from TD in a style more akin to songs on The Witchunt.
“Like Spiders Weave” starts out like it will be a full on fast industrial track, but shifts back and forth to more of the delta blues/western guitar backed style and then to a pounding industrial section. So much going on in that song and yet, it all fits together.
WCS choose to cover the Doors classic “Break on Through” and go full industrial in their interpretation while keeping primarily a bass, drum and clapping backing through the verses, choosing to bring the rest of the music in for the bridge and chorus sections. My first thought when seeing this is that it would be faster than the original, but they chose to slow it down and the power of the drums really adds to the impact of the song as well as the simplicity of the music in the verse sections.
“Fist Full of Grace” shows the band exploring more of the industrial genre, but still keeping consistent elements from the rest of the album. The driving electronica at times will bring up thoughts of other bands in the genre but again Veronica’s clean vocals and TD’s near rap-like delivery through parts of the song, differentiate this one from the rest of the tracks on the album.
Once again, White Collar Sideshow have managed to reinvent themselves and their sound while staying true to all of the elements that endeared them to listeners of their earlier efforts. While the strong bass and drum lines are there, songs this time around are more approachable for and have an unmistakable pop/rock element that draws listeners in. As in the past there will be a full video production to go with this in the live setting and will be something to behold.
Written by John Jackon
- Valley of the Skull
- Bring out your Dead
- Hug Me or Hang Me
- American Psycho
- My Warped Places
- Pig in the Middle
- I Didn’t Come Here to Die
- Like Spiders Weave
- Tombstones for Eyes
- Break on Through (to the Other Side)
- Fist Full of Grace
TD Benton: vocals, percussion
Veronica Benton: bass, vocals
Release Date: Oct. 4th. 2019
Record Label: Curtain Call Records
Video for ‘Break on Through (to the Other Side)’
Video for ‘I Didn’t Come Here to Die‘