EP Review: Oli Brown & the Dead Collective – Prelude

I first came across Oli Brown early into my days as a reviewer when we were sent the debut EP of RavenEye, Breaking Out, and I closely followed the band’s exploits from then on, taken aback by his guitar prowess. While RavenEye may be on ice for the foreseeable, Brown hasn’t sat on his hands, creating his own jewellery company, Black Feather Design, as well as coming back to music with new material under a new name.  

Prelude is the first taste of what his Dead Collective have cooked up, combining his early blues work with the charisma and heft of RavenEye. As the stomping blues licks filtered through a dirty, grungy tone, “Heard it All Before” is the Dead Collective kicking down the door before Brown’s vocals have had a chance to knock. It’s dark and gritty, reflective of the rest of the material to be found on the EP. The big, bombastic sound which emanates from the track is exactly what you’d expect from Brown’s guitar work whilst the vocals contain a sense of catharsis without straying into bitterness or venom. Add in drummer Wayne Proctor’s mountain-sized groove and it makes for a monster of an opening salvo. 

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Meanwhile, “Sinking Ship” is moody with a mighty, rumbling bass line provided by Brown. The more sombre number still has plenty of weight to it, the fuzz-laden restrained guitar is subtle, creating an atmospheric soundscape. Overall, it’s a ruminative song, its bright moments with Brown’s vocables will make for poignant listening in both the recording and if it’s played live in the coming weeks. Given that it follows the opener and for what comes after, it’s a perfect valley between two peaks and is a welcome respite. However, it is by no means a gap-filler and shows that the band aren’t all about the guitar and smashing the listener over the head with riffs and aggression. 

Two versions of “Haunted” make up the second half of the EP. Ordinarily, you’d level the criticism that it’s cheating or one version is there to make up the numbers. Having debuted it last year as the first taste of what to expect for the band, it’s Brown at his most potent from a lyrical standpoint. The heartfelt lyrics are as personal as he’s ever gotten and it’s likely that a lot of people will see themselves in it. The plugged-in version is grandiose in the same vein as Guns N’ Roses’ “Estranged”, albeit not quite as lengthy. With its blistering guitar solo, complementing Brown’s impassioned vocals – angst laced into his screams as well as the more tender moments – it’s a perfect snapshot of what the band are.  

Despite that, it’s the closing number and “Solitude Sessions” version which really enables the song to soar. Stripped back to just an acoustic guitar with added strings from Jo Quail, it’s a slightly shorter version but far more intense than the electric version. As the strings intertwine the simple yet effective acoustic twanging, Brown bares his soul to create something truly powerful and poignant. It may sound trite and reductive to describe it thusly but there’s no other word for it; it’s beautiful.

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Guitar solos on each of the tracks are emotive, reflective of this new music married with a level of technicality seen only in the best and balanced with restraint – just because you can play all the notes, it doesn’t mean you have to. Prelude shows how missed Oli Brown has been. Managing to deliver three completely different songs but anchored by bearing his heart and soul in his guitar, vocals and lyrics, this new EP will be for fans of either side of him and a perfect entry for newcomers. 

Header image by Drew Ormrod

Prelude is released on 27th January

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