Reflecting on: Dead Poetic – New Medicines

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Throughout 2014, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

New Medicines is one of those albums that seems to have a penchant for slipping through the cracks. The sophomore effort from Dayton, Ohio, post-hardcore act Dead Poetic recently turned 10 years old. There wasn’t much fanfare and you’re not likely to be overrun with reflective pieces on the album’s legacy.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise – even upon the album’s release, it was quickly overshadowed amidst the screamo explosion of 2004. This is a shame, since the album was never meant to ride that wave anyway. New Medicines is different, and it might be one of the most criminally overlooked albums of the mid-aughts.

Dead Poetic’s roots are entangled in the hardcore scene, but the band never seemed content to play a one-trick pony. Their debut, Four Wall Blackmail, was a dark and raw affair that served as a primer for what was to come, drawing influence from the best emo sounds of the previous decade while dabbling in heavier elements.

While the likes of Thursday, Finch and others were also testing the waters of the emo/hardcore hybrid, Dead Poetic was about to branch even further.

You could call New Medicines a screamo record, but to do so would be to sell the album far short. There’s much more going beneath the surface. With this effort, Dead Poetic walked the line between technical post-hardcore and accessible alt rock.

Vocalist Brandon Rike hit his stride on New Medicines, and its evident from the opening lines of “Taste the Red Hands” – the effortless transition from scream-to-sing quickly became his signature. But this wasn’t screaming for the sake of screaming – those lines and words are saved for the most vital moments.

Instead, Rike makes you wait, often opting for a stratospheric high note to keep you on your toes. Perhaps his most famous moment, the chorus of the album’s title track, utilizes the most odd and curious melody as his voice fluctuates and swoops in an odd pattern as he sings, “New medicines should ease this pain / They’re the only ailment for it, all over again.”

Likewise, guitarist Zach Miles has a few tricks up his sleeve as well. Tracks like “Hostages” and “Bury the Difference” feature radio rock-like riffs while “Molotov” and “Glass in the Trees” feature a more technical touch. There’s no two songs alike on New Medicines, but they all fit the whole quite nicely. The band refuses to plant its foot in one genre, choosing to take the best parts of several to create something fresh.

But while the album was a breakthrough of sorts for the band and surely their most popular release, it never pushed the band to scene stardom like so many of their contemporaries experienced. Instead, New Medicines became lumped in with a wave of screamo records before having a chance to show itself different.

To make matters worse, the band’s Tooth and Nail label mates were all hitting their stride. That same year saw the rise of Underoath (They’re Only Chasing Safety), Emery (The Weak’s End), Showbread (No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical), He is Legend (I Am Hollywood) and others all cashing in with grand albums that benefited greatly from the moment.

Perhaps if New Medicines drops two years sooner, we remember the album differently. Instead, the band quickly abandoned their newly crafted sound (and Rike’s screams) in favor of more straightforward rock on 2006’s Vices before disbanding.

Even Vices was a worthy release in its own right, but the damage had already been done. A revolving door of supporting members and an unfortunate case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time sealed the band’s fate. Two of the scene’s most underrated musicians in Rike and Miles walked away, leaving perhaps even more music on the table and creating one of the biggest “What ifs” of the past decade.

New Medicines may not have gotten the shine and exposure it deserved, but it still remains a cult classic and a worthy high-water mark for one of the 2000’s most underrated hard rock bands. If you go back and listen now, you’ll find far more than mere nostalgia – you’ll find an album that still holds its own and sounds as fresh and engaging as it did 10 years ago.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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