Death Dealer Union – Initiation (Album Review)

Most people in the Metal world recognize Elena Cataraga (Lena Scissorhands) as the leading voice behind the European band Infected Rain. Also making a mark with collaborations with others, including some beautiful songs with Seas on the Moon, Scissorhands has been one busy lady. A well-traveled, cultured person, living in various parts of Europe through the years, in more recent times she has called Los Angeles home, and that is where yet another project emerged for her going by the name of Death Dealer Union.

Initially formed back in 2019 by CC McKenna (drums) and Doug Weiand (lead guitars), in 2022 they teamed up with Scissorhands, who quickly became their official fronting voice. An exciting move filled with promise, they were swiftly signed to Napalm Records following the release of their debut with Scissorhands (“Beneath the Surface”), and now release their debut full-length record in 2023, Initiation. Released on September 22nd through Napalm Records, the album consists of twelve songs and features a lineup of McKenna, Weiand, Scissorhands, but also Jonny Heinz on bass, plus Hunter Havokk on additional guitars.

So, if perhaps you have not heard what Death Union Dealer sounds like, they are a bit different from Scissorhands’ work with Infected Rain. Separated entities, and with a different group of players, Death Dealer Union offers Scissorhands the ability to flex different musical muscles; because this band is more rooted in more Gothic Metal stylings, married with more traditional Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. That said, Scissorhands voice is shown off beautifully as she reaches new heights with her broad range. These exercises go from her highly distinctive growls to extremely seductive clean singing. In fact, Scissorhands is quickly proving herself to be one of the most unique, captivating vocals in Metal today…. especially following this work on the Death Dealer Union debut Initiation.

Which leads us to the music itself of Death Dealer Union which is best described as melodic, moody, and highly atmospheric. Tracks like “The Vow of Silence” show more symphonic elements, while “ILL FATED,” “The Big Blue,” and “Back To Me” show off more gothic ones. Then on the other end of the spectrum, songs like “Love Me When I’m Ugly” showcase a completely different face of the band and their abilities.

Overall, there is plenty to like about Death Dealer Union and this debut album. Harking back to Gothic Metal bands that shined during the early 2000s like Sentenced or Poisonblack, it is great to hear music in this vein is not only still possible, but having striking all the right chords. That in mind, the harshness in much of Scissorhands’ delivery adds another dimension… especially with haunting siren-like backing vocal tracks cascades throughout. Layered, thoughtful, and well-composed, Cryptic Rock gives Initiation 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Death Dealer Union – Initiation / Napalm Records (2023)
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