Dead Heaven Cowboys will either strike you as auspiciously prescient -- shrewdly anticipating the resurgence of a dormant, bygone genre -- or loathsomely nostalgic. But when you consider that vocalist Chris Chamberlayne once led the legendary sleaze merchants known as Dogs of Pleasure, his current band seems much more like a natural progression -- and in an era dominated by disco punk and screamo, its willfully anachronistic approach is definitely refreshing. The Cowboys' self-titled sophomore release, painstakingly recorded over the course of two years, has deep, undeniable roots in the same parched Dirt that Layne Staley and company once tilled. On blistering cuts like "Spittin' Butterflies" and "Circle the Drain," Chamberlayne carves grimaces in the cracked landscape with a torrent of bleak guttural melodies that show surprising depth (and debt to Phil Lewis), while chunky fretwork and deeply resonating bass lines create a swirling, relentless maelstrom that lets up only long enough to leave a skuzzy residue on Dick Meis's weepy pedal steel during the album's centerpiece, "Wistful and Opiated." Derivative? Sure. But refreshing nonetheless.
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