Covered in Bees
Portland Death Punk Vol. 2: Louder Than Fire
Click to hear: “Car on Fire with Guns”
Here’s a fun little biological experiment you can perform in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Sit on the couch, back straight, hands resting on your knees, and listen to the new Covered in Bees album while attempting to remain motionless.
I posit that the task is impossible, and science backs this up.
In laboratory studies, electroencephalographic recordings showed a sharp spike of neural activity at the primal base of the brain as soon as the first thunderous chords of Track 1, “Electric Lightening,” blasted through the lab speakers. Involuntary neck bobbing was observed in 90 percent of subjects; the other 10 percent, theory holds, were either too stunned or too scared by this minute-long temper tantrum to move.
By the end of Track 2, “Car on Fire with Guns,” fully 100 percent of study participants had played an air instrument —guitar, drum, or bass—despite every physical and mental effort not to look like a loser in front of lab staff. Most startling to researchers at Mercy Hospital, exactly 6.66 percent of subjects spontaneously threw devil horns in the air by the conclusion of Track 6, “Beware of Witches,” including several elderly subjects and a newborn with a curious birthmark on his forehead.
Give it up. Give in. Covered in Bees has conquered rock.
As the title indicates, the Bees play “death punk,” shorthand for a musical style that combines death metal and punk rock. These two ingredients, however, are not equal in their sound. Think of it more as a punk-rock cupcake with death-metal sprinkles.
If you get a chuckle out of that image, then you can fully appreciate where this band’s coming from. For all the fury in their songs, there’s also a healthy dose of self-parody, a mischievous sense of humor. It’s horror-comedy that rocks like hell.
To the Bees, every day is Halloween. Witches, vampires, werewolves, and characters like Swampman and Spiderlady populate their songs. (Spiderlady, who debuted on 2005’s Portland Death Punk Vol. 1, is back for a shout-along sequel on Vol. 2 titled, “Spiderlady 2: Chest Full of Eggs.”)
A big part of the Bees’ genius is guitarist, songwriter and back-up screamer Doug Porter, a virtuoso whose other band, Confusatron, is a more experimental outlet for his considerable talents. Porter can switch gears from “sludge” to “shred” on a dime, as can his brother, Bees bassist Ed Porter, and drummer Tristan Gallagher. (Wanna see something really scary? Check out the horror-metal-comedy group Man-Witch and ponder the fact that Gallagher’s skills on drums are matched by his jaw-dropping work on guitar.)
The other key to the Bees is Boo, the wickedly charismatic lead singer and co-songwriter. Boo bellows, barks and screams like a madman across all 12 tracks. It takes a big voice and an outsized personality to match the ferocious music his bandmates crank out, and Boo is more than up to the task.
Together, the band pulls off every trick in the heavy-metal songbook: the build-up, the break-down, sudden stops and starts, the pick-slide, the pre-solo yelp, cinematic sound effects—even the cheesy orchestral intro played on heavily effected guitar (heard here on “Song of the Dead,” the bit is humorously preceded by sounds of an orchestra tuning up, the tap of a baton, and someone clearing their throat). Hooks abound, but the rock never softens. Instead it’s one killer riff after another, interspersed with Porter’s mind-bending solos.
The Bees sum up their approach in the closer, “Ride With Us”: “My phazer’s set on stun / Our amps are set on fun / This knife is set to kill / This set is set to thrill.” Stunning, fun, killer and thrilling, no one in Maine out-rocks the Bees. See this band live if it kills you.
— Chris Busby