Dead Feathers: Full Circle

Dead Feathers Background

Dead Feathers, a band who’s been releasing music since 2016, first popped onto my radar in early August of this year by way of their newest single, Full Circle. I was immediately drawn into the song and enamored with the vocal talent of Marissa Welu, backed by an equally talented band: Tony Wold (lead guitar), Rob Rodak (bass), Tim Snyder (rhythm guitar), and Joel Castanon (percussion).

A psychedelic rock band hailing from Chicago, Dead Feathers has an undeniable retro sound.  Many, many bands do this, and do it pretty damn well, but Dead Feathers has a way of making you feel like you’re legitimately in the year 1969. I knew I had to break out my incense and bell bottom jeans and listen to more of this.

There’s no denying that vocalist Marissa Welu is the star of the show here. Her vocals, which tend to alternate between ethereal crooning and powerful bellows, have been called “mystical”, “haunting”, “chilling”, and “spellbinding” by critics. She also utilizes what I’ll call vocal whooping (for lack of a better word). By that I mean occasionally at the end of a verse, Welu will emit a short “whoop, whoop, whoop” sound, almost like  a bark.

The closest thing I could find to a word or phrase for this was “Native American war whoops”. If you’ve ever listened to Native American music, you’re likely familiar with these. Welu’s range and tendency to build up songs vocally from soft and airy to howling and intense really help drive home the emotional lyrics of the songs. 

I like to think of strong female vocalists as sirens; they have a way of hooking you, almost hypnotizing you, and keeping you listening. Marissa Welu certainly has this skill. She has been compared to the likes of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. I personally think Allen has a bit of an early Patti Smith vibe (think Because the Night), and could also be compared to Elin Larsson from Blues Pills. Welu is certainly talented enough that she could successfully lend her voice to just about any musical genre she wanted to. 

In 2016, Dead Feathers released a 4-track, self-titled EP, followed by their first full length album, All is Lost, in 2019. The album starts out very strong and delivers several tracks that are absolute juggernauts, but I found myself tuning out a bit by the last few songs. All the songs were great, don’t get me wrong, but by the end of the album, it felt a bit one note. After listening to All is Lost in its entirety as well as the new singles Full Circle (released in early August of this year) and Daughters (released late in the month), I had very high hopes that the band’s upcoming album, Full Circle would be a bit more energetic and bring more variety. 

All that being said, Dead Feathers did not let me down. Far from it.

Full Circle

The Album begins with Full Circle, the first single released from the album. It’s a breath of fresh air. Dead Feathers brings the energy right out of the gate as if announcing, “We’re back”. The decision to use this song as the first single and first track on the album was a very smart one; if you’ve never heard the band before, it will definitely hook you and implore you to listen more. (As it did for me!) 

Lightning is another dynamic song that has a noticeable blues feel. Daughters is the second single from this album and…wow. This song employs that building tactic I mentioned earlier: It starts out quite slowly and gradually builds up to howling vocals, wailing guitars, and booming drums. Probably the most notable aspect of this track are the powerful and emotional lyrics. “If you stand beside her but you don’t intend to be hers only, then get out of her way!” Welu wails.

The Swell is a song that does just that; the music swells and recedes throughout the entire song like the tide. It’s an incredibly chill, relaxing song that inherently calms you. Robbery was the song that floored me. As irony would have it, I’m a very impatient doom fan. So many awesome doom/stoner songs are something like fifteen minutes long, you say? Yes, I know. It’s a problem for me. Usually, if songs are over six minutes or so, I lose interest and, admittedly, sometimes don’t even give them a chance.

Dead Feathers

Robbery, a song that is nearly ten minutes long, grabbed me and hooked me, and I happily stayed along for the entire ride. This song by itself solves any issues I had with Dead Feather’s first album. It does a phenomenal job of being layered with both fast and slow parts while effortlessly keeping the listener interested by keeping great variety in the vocals, guitar solos, drum licks, etc. It probably goes without saying, Robbery is my favorite track on the album; it’s essentially everything I love about Dead Feathers wrapped up in one epic package. 

Overall, I can hardly find words to express how proud I am of the progress this amazing band has made in a very short time. It’s very evident that they’ve grown and matured as a band and as individual musicians. That renewed vitality is palpable throughout the entire album. Dead Feathers was great before, and they’re even better now. 

Dead Feathers’ upcoming album, Full Circle, is due to be released through Ripple Music on September 22, 2023. Keep your eyes peeled for my last blog about another amazing female-fronted psychedelic rock band with a new album on the horizon, Hippie Death Cult!

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