Rock music has always had a fine sense of the theatrical, the dramatic, the epic and there is no shortage of such grandeur in Joey Niles sweeping and majestic Death Has No Friends. It is safe to say that the sonic concepts here are going to be fairly familiar to most. It combines that classic metal grunt with technical guitar work, almost prog rock approaches to interludes and breakdowns, deft acoustica and forceful drive. It is a sound that had a golden age in the 80’s perhaps but with the cyclical nature of music, a resurgence in technical rock music and the fact that such progressive metal has quietly being following its own path never out of fashion by virtue of the fact that it was never in fashion, the timing of this song could prove to be perfect.
Musically the song is on interesting ground, combining the same classical interludes and sweeping cinematics, rock muscle and byzantine musical machinations that the likes of Nightwish or Evanescence were so adept at. Such music is built of musical height and tension which when done right can be breath-taking, though all too often it falls into the realms of pretentious, preposterous, bluntness and bombastic. Thankfully, I can report that Death Has No Friends falls pretty much into the former category, delivering a series of dynamic shifts and sonic crescendos, hard driven deliveries and masterful, not to mention unexpectedly, wide ranging vocals. In short it effortlessly walks that fine line between the symphonic and the super-charged.
The video reveals that the narrative is driven from a certain belief, but the song never preaches or tries to sell that particular world view and considering the song deals with such a universal concept, anyone and everyone can find an aspect of it to relate to. And it is imagery that suits the Wagnarian tones that the song uses to deliver its message. Rock and metal has always felt like the perfect medium to express those existential crises, those eternal struggles of morality and man’s effort to understand his place in the grand scheme of things and Death Has No Friends sits perfectly in that realm.
It takes an artist of skill to navigate such waters and come out the other side with a song that avoids running aground or just delivering more of the same. Thankfully, with a wealth of musical experience stretching back to the eighties, Joey Niles has delivered a great, fluid and conceptually brave slice of metal, one that references the past, is relevant to the here and now and suggests a promising future.