Dax Riggs

If This Is Hell Then I'm Lucky

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Originally Deadboy & the Elephantmen's 2002 debut album, If This Is Hell Then I'm Lucky was reissued in 2008 under Dax Riggs' name only. While Riggs is certainly the main creative force behind this album, rebranding it as his work instead of that of Deadboy & the Elephantmen is a little confusing, since the feel and sound here is very different than Riggs' 2007 album We Sing of Only Blood or Love. When it was first released, If This Is Hell Then I'm Lucky introduced Riggs' move away from the harder, more purely metal terrain of his previous bands, Acid Bath and Agents of Oblivion, into a more eclectic sound that borrowed from psychedelic rock, alt-rock, and blues as well as metal -- a journey that Riggs' continued on his later solo albums. "Strange Television" kicks off the album with a dark, trippy atmosphere that sounds like a grittier version of Pink Floyd: synths hover and lift off from dolorous guitar arpeggios, and Riggs' voice even has some of Roger Waters' aloof anguish in it. From there, the song delves into grinding choruses with hand drums lending a wild, almost exotic touch, then pulls back for a brief piano-driven respite. The rest of If This Is Hell Then I'm Lucky teeters between thrilling and overindulgent: "Song with No Name" combines pizzicato strings and guitars that turn from swirling to savage to great effect, but other songs, like "Heart of Green" -- a droning, acoustic ballad that's pretty but just doesn't have enough there to justify its eight-minute length -- collapse under their ambitions. And, as if the album's title wasn't enough of a hint, Riggs' melodramatic tendencies almost get the better of him on "Waking Up Insane" and "Graves Beyond Windows." Despite the missteps, If This Is Hell Then I'm Lucky shows how Riggs' sound was evolving: "Like the Dead Would Laugh"'s slow burn and snake-charming guitars have the hypnotic pull of Riggs' later work, while "High Monster" and "Otherworldly Dreamer" have a stripped-down sound that remains a touchstone on We Sing of Only Blood or Love. If This Is Hell Then I'm Lucky is a transitional album in the truest sense, and while it may be uneven, Riggs fans will no doubt enjoy hearing his earlier work.

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