Is there life after Death? Well, I guess it depends who you ask. For fans of the lost and then found sounds of Detroit’s band called Death, then The 4th Movement might have some answers for you.
Formed in the mid-70’s, Death were comprised of three African-American brothers; David (guitar), Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis (drums) who together created a hard rockin’ time-bending strain of proto-punk that was something unheard of in their era on their side of Detroit, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. At the time of Death’s first incarnation, the group managed to scrape together enough resources to self-release a 7” single, with the still unfortunately relevant “Politicians In My Eyes” on the a-side, backed with “Keep on Knocking” on the flip. Unfortunately, with barely any distribution, it pretty much sank without a trace, and the group fell deep into oblivion.
The 4thMovement picks up in 1980 after the brothers Hackney had left Detroit far behind. Decamped in Burlington, Vermont, and most likely feeling disillusioned and disappointed following the indifferent reception received by their former group. David Hackney filled with a certain sort of spiritual longing; cast his eyes upwards to the man upstairs for solutions and a new musical path forward.
“Revelation’s Eve,” sets the tone for the album, and sees the band preparing for Christ’s return. It was clear that the new decade, and the looming era of Regan had put the band in an apocalyptic mood. At times, this record almost makes me imagine what 1970’s era Arthur Lee might have gotten up to if he ever managed to find religion. While you can still catch some of Death’s heaviness present on tracks such as “Seeking The Life That’s To Be,” and “The Build Up,” elsewhere, the group leaves some of the claustrophobic Townshend informed guitar pummeling of their former band behind; and in the process of doing so, manage to open themselves up to create some deeper grooves than Death ever managed to conjure. You can hear Bobby and Dannis locking in on the psychic connections shared with brother David all over this album and especially on such tracks like the soulful “The Christ In You.” While deeply psychedelic turns like “Life Without End” recall the vibe of other ‘80’s fringe dwelling outsiders like Jeff Eubank and Bobb Trimble with its flanged acoustic textures.
In the end, The 4thMovement would not be the final stop for the Hackney brothers. Following several years of gigs, a single and a second self-released album, David headed back to Detroit leaving Bobby and Dannis behind where the group put down roots, and dug into some roots, rock and reggae forming a local group, Lambsbread. Eventually, Death would experience their own second coming in 2009 as crate digging collectors finally got hip, which lead to a reformation, and the release of Death’s long lost recordings, most notably, their 1975 studio demos as …For the Whole World to See.
Regardless of your religious leanings, The 4th Movement is a monster of an album, and a true private press gem. A record that we’re lucky to have yanked back from obscurity’s clutches by the kind folks at Drag City, who had have had the cojones to reintroduce the apostolic sounds of The 4thMovement to this increasing secular world. It helps complete the picture of the Hackney brothers’ post-Death musical life. For those who aren’t afraid of getting a little religion, it’s an album with plenty of treasures, and maybe even the answers to a few questions you’ve been seeking.
The 4thMovement is available June 22nd via Drag City pre-order now.