Carson Cox of Merchandise recently formed Death Index, a side project that seems to unleash the musician’s inner hardcore sensibilities. The project’s debut album, released on February 26th, uses a post-punk template that one would expect from Cox, but adds plenty of hardcore punk elements to the music. With all of the vocals done by Cox, the album certainly reminds listeners of modern post-punk outfits such as Viet Cong, but several of the tracks contain hardcore and noise-rock tendencies that I embrace with open arms.
Starting with the blistering opener, “Fast Money Kill,” Death Index immediately reminds me of the early hardcore of Black Flag and the like. “Dream Machine,” one of the singles released from the album, really starts to groove after a fast-paced guitar intro. Reverb-heavy guitar eventually starts to fill out the song, taking it from typical hardcore punk track to something more unique. “The Meal” starts out kind of dull with a slow guitar riff driven by marching band snare rolls, but the track explodes around two minutes into the song. The piercing guitar mixed with the intensely articulated drumming takes the song to a new level, although it makes the song’s ending shortly after very bittersweet. “Fup” is a little bit of a low on the album as nothing particularly sets it apart from the other songs. While the song utilizes a fairly chunky, driving guitar part, “Fup” simply doesn’t strike me like some of the other tracks do. “Little ‘N Pretty” sees Death Index nodding towards Black Flag with an intense guitar part that could easily be part of a missing Damaged track. Sounding completely different that the other tracks on the album, “Lost Bodies” seems like a bit of segue between tracks right before the album begins its final act. Containing largely just a brooding synth line mixed with dreamy vocals (with plenty of reverb and echoing delay) and mechanical drums, the transition song seems to signify something rather ominous in the album’s last inning; I’m not sure that the actual ending to the album quite does the buildup justice, but the last few songs on the album do present some real bangers.
Death Index contains all the in-your-face guitar riffing that you need for your fix of punk and hardcore, but Cox’s Ian Curtis-tinged vocals add the post-punk vibes that listeners can expect from the Merchandise frontman. With some great tracks (see “The Meal” and “Dream Machine”) and some…alright ones (“Fup”), it’s a solid debut for a side project. Fans of Viet Cong, Protomartyr, and the like can definitely find something to like about Death Index, and fans of Fugazi and Black Flag can also get a good helping of hardcore riffing.