‘I Didn’t Come Here to Die’ album review
album: I Didn’t Come Here to Die
artist: White Collar Sideshow
genre: shock rock
release date: October 4, 2019
star rating: four out of five
review by Levi Yager
You couldn’t have asked for a more fitting album to be released in October. With Halloween on the horizon, there’s nothing better than new White Collar Sideshow tunes to haunt your head. The band’s upcoming release, titled I Didn’t Come Here to Die, is a thrilling ride with songs that, indeed, will roam the halls of your mind and leave an impression on your conscience.
The wickedly weird White Collar Sideshow employ different sounds and approaches this time around that may surprise fans. Most noticeably, The Faceless Woman is no longer voiceless; you’ll hear quite a bit of singing by Veronica Benton throughout the album, which brings a lot of melodic clout into the sideshow’s sound. Fear not: the yells and screams by her husband TD Benton, The Ringleader, are not abandoned, and the mix of these vocal styles actually makes for some great moments. It’s also worth mentioning – for those unaware – that the pig has left the picture; Herr Schwein hung up his hammer sometime within the past few years to focus on other areas of his life. Phil is undoubtedly missed, but I’m thankful that WCS have continued their incomparable brand of music even in his absence.
All that said, let’s take a peek inside, shall we?
“Valley of the Skull” is the opener, starting up with chimes and chirping crickets. Then drums build into western guitar noodling, and later on, the chorus provides a hefty jam that contrasts to the slower verses. “Valley of the Skull” sets the tone for what listeners can expect in following tracks; WCS utilize what they call “space-western” vibes throughout the album, and much of that is present from the get-go here. The band’s core sound remains intact, but they’ve added new ingredients to the mix.
The next couple songs are highlights as well. The third song, specifically, is undeniably memorable. Titled “Hug Me or Hang Me,” it’s a hypnotizing detour into White Collar Sideshow’s slower – yet still heavy – side. The lyrics deal with absolutes in imperfect relationships, and it ends with the spin, “Oh, ye of little faith, this world can really change.” This song also features the band’s signature use of creepy spoken soundbites, and it isn’t the only one that does so.
Another strong track is number five, “My Warped Places,” and it very well might be my favorite on the album. It has foreboding lyrics from a struggling soul, which are backed by steady stomp-claps. It soon speeds up for a chaotic, no-holds-barred chorus section, creating intriguing dichotomy. “My Warped Places” is followed by “Pig in the Middle,” a standout in its own right. It starts with an eerie, repeated voice clip of, “The closest thing to the flesh of a man is the flesh of a pig.” Unsettling? Oh, yes. Then the band jumps right into some of their most interesting lyrics revolving around personal vices. TD sings, “Internet controls my life – my thinking. Feels like I’m shrinking. My custom-made mask called Kill the Pig.” This track has some of the best structure of any song on the album, too.
The title track is seventh on the record. Keeping the quality hits coming, “I Didn’t Come Here to Die” is a mid-tempo cut that has a sick groove and driving percussion. It addresses the concepts of death and despair, making for a thematically-effective title track.
Honestly, everything from here on out is remarkably solid; you can’t go wrong with any of these second-half songs. One that might grab your attention from the name itself is number 10, “Break on Through (To the Other Side).” That’s right – White Collar Sideshow’s first official cover song. It’s a cool, new take on the original song by The Doors that WCS make their own, becoming a little harder and more abrasive than the original.
After that is the closing track, “Fist Full of Grace.” In true White Collar Sideshow fashion, it paints some hopeful themes into the frame at the very end of the album. The musical characteristics of “Fist Full of Grace” are pretty unique; we get soft, yet full vocals by Veronica paired with dark, determined instrumentation that gives the song a sturdy backbone and supports the western-style lead guitar work and buzzing bass guitar. Interestingly, it concludes with the same kind of chimes that “Valley of the Skull” begins with, coming full circle.
White Collar Sideshow have really outdone themselves with this record. A harrowing, yet enlightening spiral into disarray, I Didn’t Come Here to Die is encouraging as much as it is revolting. As they always have, WCS go to some of the blackest corners to shine a light. Not only is their new album compelling, the musicality at play is insanely inventive. The band’s newfound “space-western” sound incorporates dusty, far-out stylings into their niche of rock, and these textures work exceptionally well with the elements they’ve already been using in their music. I’m stoked to catch the band’s new live set now, since they’ll have the video component at their shows to complement these songs. I can only imagine what it’ll look like all together. Make no mistake: even all these years after White Collar Sideshow’s last release, the teeth of their saw are sharp as ever.