Have a Nice Life are an ambient drone and post-punk band out of Middletown, Connecticut. In 2008, the duo of Dan Barrett (guitar/vocals) and Tim Macuga (drums) released their debut album Deathconsciousness, an 85 minute concept album that truly takes a listener down one of the most depressive roads in the history of music. Not only does the album have a narrative based upon a mysterious historical figure’s life, it embodies every painful moment with an accompanying album that is just as dreadful in tone as the story. The trademarks set by Deathconsciousness has gone on to set a tone for other projects from the duo (Giles Corey, The Danger Strangers) but most of all, left it’s mark on the world of drone music forever.
To say this record is a landmark in the genre is putting it too lightly. Pulling from black metal and post-punk as well has granted new leeway for young bands like Young and In The Way and Code Orange to incorporate drone and black metal into their hardcore music. Have a Nice Life set the template for mixing darkness with beauty, making a macabre nightmare seem like a hazy dream world as well. Throughout the thirteen tracks on Deathconsciousness, listeners will be thrown into an orchestrated pit of despair. However, there are plenty of beautiful moments as well. Most dark acts have proven to be one trick ponies, relying on dark subjects and dissonant sounds to give a feeling of apprehension, but Dan and Tim instead decide to let you feel the atmosphere while being given a great story and song writing as well, making them a real five-tool player in the practice of drone.
Being broken up into two halves, there is a lot of content to dive into. The Plow That Broke the Plains tells the story of the world quickly turning toward an obvious end. “A Quick One Before The Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut” leads off the album on a slower and more slight note. Utilizing a small drone and light instrumentation, the track is seven minutes that makes a listener feel a bit too comfortable. “Bloodhail” quickly wakes the listener up with a heavy drone and post-rock attack that spurns on without a warning. The creepy piano is always lurking in the background, giving a sense of building tension. The tension continues to build as “The Big Gloom” and “Hunter” throw listeners into the heart of the madness. Using more boisterous drone and drum patterns, these two tracks really pay off the story telling with a decidedly darker turn toward all out chaos. The whole half is brought down by the extremely dark and brooding instrumental, “There Is No Food.” Using sound bites of shouting with a menacing drone looming and guitars that are at their most shrill only continue to set the reminder of how dark their woven world has gotten.
The second half, titled The Future shows a bit more versatility from the duo. “Waiting For Black Metal Records to Come In the Mail” and “Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000” are more humorous than dark. There are still looming senses of danger around the corner in both tracks but the first song mentioned is laughable in it’s cynical attack on the government as a machine and macho punk charisma oozes from every second. “HFS: 40,000” continues the cynicism with a cold and distant character who commits heinous acts without a care in the world displayed by happy guitars, only to be broken by powerful drums in the second half charge. “The Future” is drenched with reverberated guitar work and dying tones that would make Varg Vikernes proud. “Deep, Deep” is the duo’s most rocking track, coming off as slightly more commercial while also keeping a deep sense of drone darkness. “I Don’t Love” is marked by a terrifying vocal sample to open the track, but the middle loses momentum as the vocals fall into the mix of heavy guitar work. “Earthmover” closes Deathconsciousness off on the best note possible though. The vocals on this eleven minute behemoth are the best of the record, garnering a quality that never becomes achieved earlier. The movement from pure darkness to the light coming as the earth is reclaimed by it’s natural inhabitants is truly stunning, being a true to form black metal track.
Deathconsciousness has not only proven to be worthy of it’s second re-issue, it may have become even more potent and powerful with age. Perhaps that is due Barrett and Macuga coming back with another solid LP that never quite reaches this level, or possibly because one can see the bands they have influenced since that time. There are still some self-indulgent moments that make a listener wonder whether it really needs to be 85 minutes long, but the concept is a home run from fearful beginning to hopeful end. Have a Nice Life have created the gold standard for drone rock/metal music for the future, let us hope bands are ready to measure up to the lofty benchmark.
1. A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut
3. The Big Gloom
6. Who Would Leave Their Son Out In the Sun?
7. There Is No Food
8. Waiting For Black Metal Records to Come in the Mail
9. Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000
10. The Future
11. Deep, Deep
12. I Don’t Love