Death In Graceland
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Death In Graceland

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The best kept secret in music


"Death In Graceland - Come On, Touch Me"

City Beat - Vol. 9 Issue 37 Jul 23-Jul 29, 2003
While many young, so-called Punk bands these days have memories that go back only as far as their big brother's Descendents CD collection (at best), Death In Graceland are built -- directly or not -- on the Punk-Before-It-Had-A-Name Rock of The Stooges, MC5 and the Dead Boys. Put it this way: You won't find any cutesy lyrics or processed, auto-tuned vocals on Come On, Touch Me, the band's tremendous, relentless seven-song debut effort. DIG embody the danger and pure Rock & Roll abandon of the new-school of reckless Garage Punk, led by figure-head bands like the late Murder City Devils. And they do it as well, if not better, than many of their more acclaimed counterparts. Such wildness translates well in a live setting, but it's harder to pull off in a studio. That's exactly why Come On is so triumphant. The album skillfully captures the uninhibited energy, with the switchblade stab of the group's dueling guitars sounding so urgently visceral it'll nick your chin if you're not careful. Singer "Matt" also possesses a dynamic vocal personality; like Iggy and Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, he can float effortlessly between banshee wail and vampiric croon, without ever sounding like an actor. The harness of energy wouldn't mean squat if this was just another bunch of drunk, tattooed hoodlums thrashing around their basement. DIG has an effectively dark, almost artful writing ability, channeling that Johnny Thunder-like treachery through a filter of razored dissonance and imaginative arrangements, resembling at times what early Fugazi might have sounded like had they all been Jack Daniels enthusiasts. It's chaotic, to be sure, but there's method to the madness. (Mike Breen)
- Cincinnati Citybeat


This week's special summit edition was distinguished by Death in Graceland -- a Cincinnati group known for its truck-stop wardrobe and take-no-prisoners sonic assault.
After framing their hometown as the place that gave the world Larry Flynt and Jerry Springer, Death in Graceland played a set sleazy and brash enough to make Larry and Jerry proud. (David Lindquist)
- online publication


Death in Graceland is going to creep you out. Don't resist. With the morbid album art, the raunchy, full-throttle Punk Rock and menacing lyrics, it is inevitable. They will make you clench your fists, shake your ass, and sing along to every nihilistic anthem on their 7-song debut, Come On, Touch Me. The experience is decidedly visceral, but the filthy residue doesn’t disguise the amazing songwriting and playing these gifted newcomers offer.

The variety of riffs and structures on this disc make every single song a masterpiece. DiG make great use of their dual guitar lineup, layering chunky Dead Kennedys riffs with meaty, inventive leads and inviting comparisons to Tom Morello or J Mascis. The rhythm section wrestles and pins every tempo and intensity shift that comes their way, and there are many. These aren't "waiting for the chorus to come back" songs; the arranging is pure demolition derby. Sections are mutated and extended or shortened to suit the storytelling. And the vocals are the antithesis of the sweet harmonies upon which many a Pop-Punk castle is currently built. More like Stiv Bators meets Mick Jagger. Which is fortuitous, considering DiG's lyrical content...disturbing would be appropriate at times.

For instance, in the tastefully titled "Planes Over Manhattan," they put their twisted stamp on a "getting dumped" song with a mischievous metaphor. "It's the final call, baby, we're going down," is the mantra. Offensive? Sure, but in a refreshing way. The songs consistently recall a less sensitive time, when nobody asked permission to smoke in a public place, publishers printed books sorting off-color jokes and Rock songs were all about drugs and pussy. Lines of coke, bottles of booze, a finger on the trigger…these are the glimpses into the seedy world DiG has created, where lust borders on misogyny and unapologetic consumption of all things intoxicating is the order of the day.

The profoundly talented musicians in this band deserve a lot of the credit for an amazing album, but the production is also a critical component. The tracks pack every bit of the wallop of Black Flag or MC5, but with up-to-date recording and mixing standards. While a hint of lo-fi is dialed in for charm, the sound is never sloppy. Sequencing is also silky smooth, the songs flow into one another with almost concept album precision. These touches are a clear sign that while the band may come off like a mesh-hatted version of the Murder City Devils, they are deadly serious about their music and how it is conveyed.

A million listens later, Come On, Touch Me still thrills, but it leaves the listener wondering, are these guys really a crude group of degenerates engaged in artful autobiography? Or is their writing simply skillful emulation of restless youth? Less confident delivery would reveal the content a ruse, but DiG swaggers with the best. I guess there’s only one way to find out if they're genuine.

Go on. Touch them. (Ezra Waller)

- online publication

"Death Becomes Them"

An old friend once related his version of Jimi Hendrix's final moments. "Yeah, he choked on his own puke, but Clapton was there making sure he stayed on his back, and Keith Richards was giving the ambulance driver bad directions. They couldn't keep up with the cat, so they had to off him."
This is the potential problem Death in Graceland (DiG) has created for themselves. Comparatively, their Punk peers are sissies, Metal bands seem flaccid and pretentious and Garage Rock is weeks-old white bread.

In an era when any boy band with the requisite amount of body mods and power chords can carry the mantle, what's missing is not so much the attitude, but the uncontrived catharsis that the originators enjoyed, expressing themselves without a marketing context. DiG appears to have tapped into this rich vein, and the resulting unique and infectious style is not a facade, but a direct connection between the band and listener.

The brunt of their appeal is the unpredictable range of styles they incorporate and the chaotic mix of reactions their music provokes. Hard Rock is their molten core, with a thick crust of '70s Proto-Punk supplied by the thundering, full-tilt rhythm section (bassist Kevin Warwick and drummer Patrick Walkenhorst) and Matt Ayers' vocals, which approximate what Iggy Pop's misanthropic take on Emo might sound like. Kane Kitchen and Greg Beale's huge guitars blend Post-Punk, Ska and thrashed-up, funky Blues riffs, using refined and competent interplay that most Hardcore bands lack.

DiG emerged in the winter of 2001 when Beale, Walkenhorst and Warwick, who had been the backbone of local Punk heroes Anti-Pro and Glam Rockers Frantic Romantic, found the perfect singer for their new project. Ayers, who also drums for Terrorcore outfit Noarmsnolegs, fit the bill perfectly with his unrefined Bono-meets-Joe Pesci bravado. Plus he worked at Pizza Hut too, so he met another key pre-requisite (Beale and Warwick are also Pizza Hut employees; Walkenhorst schleps at Dewey's Pizza). After a short stint as a four-piece, they recruited Kitchen, a fellow Westsider (and Papa John's deliveryman), formerly of UNX.

After playing a few live shows, they recorded a demo. Then in winter of 2002, their seven-song debut Come On, Touch Me, was born. Recorded by Jayson Hazelbaker (of DiG's local comrades Junior Revolution) at his house in about a month, the disc showcases the band's technical ability and loosely structured compositional style with remarkable clarity. Their buzz-saw sound is faithfully reproduced and mixed with great effect.

If the album is the bait, their bombastic live show is the hook. They rip through the intricate numbers while colliding onstage like bumper cars. Ayers' wit is apparent and not the least bit forced. He gives the distinct impression that, if there were any fakery or grandstanding, he'd be the first to call "bullshit."

DiG's lyrics and artwork are dark and demented, but through today's cynical filters, "perversely humorous" is a more likely description than "vulgar." The name also adds to the mystery of the band, but it has no special meaning according to Walkenhorst.

"Jerry, the singer from Noarmsnolegs came up with it," he says. "It was originally 'Graceland Toe Tag.' He knows all these weird things about serial killers and death. But it has no specific meaning."

Although their gritty sound and image draw comparisons to early Punk and its faithful latter-day descendants, DiG claims bands like Grand Funk Railroad, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin as influences.

"You can party to it, even though it's kind of depressing," says Warwick.

"Everybody wants to call us on the Murder City Devils thing," complains Ayers, referring to the late Pacific Northwest cult legends. "That was cool for a minute, but ..."

"We kind of broke free of that," continues Beale. "People say Fugazi now -- it's more atmospheric and progressive."

In addition to shows in the Tristate, DiG has managed two full tours of the Eastern U.S., including an NXNE appearance in Toronto.

"Our first tour, we were really lucky. The second time was rough," recalls Warwick.

"We got fucked at the border both times," remembers Beale. "Windsor is the bad place to cross. We ended up having to pay 60 bucks a person to for a one-day work permit, even though we told them it was a free gig."

"But we got to hang out with A Simple Plan and bang 15-year-old girls," Ayers recalls wistfully. Always the optimist ...

DiG also has a semi-official sixth member, Ryan Thomas. Best known as the proprietor of the former all-ages Punk club, The Void, Thomas has been thick with the band after letting them take up residency at his venue, performing frequently and practicing there in the daytime. Now, according to Walkenhorst, he "drives the van, chips in money, loves The Damned and beats all of our Tetris scores."

Speaking of Tetris, with an album steeped in references to sex, drugs and violence, the issues of addiction and compulsive behavior seem like natural topics of conversation. But illicit activity takes a back seat to Gameboy in the DiG tour van.

And Ayers has his own monkey to feed: his record collection. "Touring is really just a way for me to buy more albums," he says. "I got a Ween first-pressing the last time out."

Can the guy who belts out believable self-destructive anthems with such gusto really be so tame?

"My favorite high is watching an employee at Shake It's eye's light up when I buy $150 worth of records," says Ayers.

- CityBeat- Ezra Waller

"Punk Planet"

Punk Planet - Issue 60 March/April 2004 Death In Graceland - Come On, Touch Me Death In Greaceland's sound falls somewhere between the classic punk of the Dead Boys, the hardcore assult of the Dead Kennedys, and (for lack of a better term) the grunge of Green River. That's right, it's awesome! This seven-song EP has good grooves, crunchy guitars, strong hooks and a whole lotta raunch. What a novel idea: The tunes are actually distingishable from one another. There's a bit of wild, boozer vibe to the music, but it's also pretty damn dark, like when you mix whiskey with downers and lose your ever-loving mind. Matt, the singer, belts out lyrics about alcohol, blood, murder and chicks in a snotty, slurred voice that meshes perfectly with the two guitars, bass and drums. This five-peice has a firm understanding of sonic texture. They know when to hold back and when to let loose, and their change-ups aren't excessively jaring, either. The songs are written and arranged so well that they're instantly catchy without being obvious. Killer stuff. (AJ) - AJ


Born out of the demise of former Cincinnati bands, such as The Frantic Romantics, and NoArms.NoLegs., Death In Graceland has been bringing the "fuck you" attitude back to rock music in the area for little under a year's time. With the release of their debut disc, Come On, Touch Me, the quintet has managed to pump out seven tracks of unihibited energy, which epitomizes the band's evil- sex, drugs, and rock n roll sound.

"Dance Floor Disasters" opens the album, immediately imploring you to "shake your ass like you should - like those dirty motherfuckers in HOLLYWOOD!". The band's catchiest song by far, it serves as a good intro to Death In Graceland's sound.

For me "Sunsets of the South" serves as the highlight of the disc. Track Five, "Retro Color Clash", transitions smoothly right into this song, as the bass guitar chugs along. Soon the guitars begin to rise above the drums, and bass, right as Matthew kicks in with his distorted ramblings throughout the first verse, only to emerge from the muddle with his dark, soulful scream of:"And then she stops breathing." Perfectly fitting, the track is dark, and representative of what I think Death In Graceland is to me. A lot of people actually compare them to The Stooges, or MC5, however I am definitely not qualified to make that comparison.

Other songs such as "Retro Color Clash", and "Dragging The Lake" hold their own on the album, showcasing skillful guitars, and powerful drumming, as well as bass. Drive Thru Records fans be warned: this ain't no Starting Line. Harmonies, hell no... Sugar coated refrains that will make your ears bleed, definitely not... Pretty Boys, forget about it, although their hair cuts are pretty stylish, which in effect gives them a good look- not that it matters.
Anyways, Come On, Touch Me albeit an impressive disc, doesn't compare to Death In Graceland's live show.

Virgins to the experience of Death In Graceland Live should be warned of the drunkeness that ensues at the shows. Following that is a stage show that includes male nudity, along with the lead vocalist, "Matthew", working himself into a frenzy, including tossing lit cigarettes into the crowd's face. They might not know it, but they sure do know how to work a crowd.

Bottom Line: Death In Graceland's Come On, Touch Me has brought a breath of fresh air to the music scene in Cincinnati, with their attitude, energy, and ability to write dark songs, that effectively tell good stories.

Death In Graceland: pizza boys by day - rock stars by night. (4/5 - NoUseBoy/MySoulBleeds)
- review


Ahh, a new and totally different band out of Cincinnati, Ohio (my hometown) that is doing something different from hardcore or Zao-worship bands. I had heard of them before but the other day I went to the CD release party they had. The guys in the band are all nice and I know most of them at least a little. What we have here is 7 songs of pure old-school rock and roll. Not like the Suicide File or something that is "rockin", this is actual rock and roll. This is NOT hardcore "rock". Upbeat songs, each with a catchy chorus..even some tambourine and cowbell action. Some of the parts remind me of the Dead Kennedy's or waaaay older punk rock has catchy tunes full of groovey riffs and a gritty garage sound overall to it...sorda like The White Stripes. The vocals are sung and yelled, but not pretty and soft but gruff and the lyrics from what I can gather, (no lyrics included...) are relating to girls and drugs and that kinda thing. This band has the entire rocker image going on as well, in the way they dress and smoking and drinking on stage while they play, and they are called Death In much more "rock" can you fucking get. This really isn't some pasted on image, because it seems that this is how these dude are and act everyday, this is total get drunk off your ass and party music. The production is pretty clean and thick but the drums could be a little louder, but it isn't anything that brings it down. I'm glad to see some more bands coming from Cincinnati, especially one that is doing something different. I am not really into this style of music at all and don't really dig old rock and roll or most old punk...but these dudes are doing it real good and they could go somewhere with it. I would recommend this to anyone who digs punk rock like the Dead Kennedy's or whatever...but I don't really know what to compare it to, because I am a poser on the old school punk stuff. Nice packaging, good songs, and totally cool dudes...balls out rock and roll. Definitely a band worth checking out if you dig anything like this, they do it excellent. (2/5 xRobby Alivex <>)
- review


So, this is what happens when good kids who rob their parents liqour cabinets and steal their siblings stashes grow up.... This band is from Cincinnati. Its been a big month for Cincy in my Landing Party column and only befitting to end it with these Locals. The Death in Graceland is some good kids. I seen these guys in various bands previously and I can honestly say they each have really matured and found their niche with each other. This band just clicks in kinda wierd ways... Theres something about their sound, their songs... It brings to mind THE MURDER CITY DEVILS in a big way, and the label and band knows it, but I can hear some RITES OF SPRING in there a bit too, and thats what Im liking. In fact, I really wanted DEATH IN GRACELAND to be the Cincinnati equivelant of THE HOT SNAKES but they arent... I mean, with what DEATH have, memberwise and equipment and tallent wise, I think that we, the endearing public, have yet to really see what this band has to offer. They have came a long way, as individuals and even as a band, but this band has been pending the past several months really getting together and working out some kinks in their unit thats bringing about a gelling affect. The Death in Graceland on THIS CD is good, but I just cant wait to see what else they do. They got me expecting something that I know they can deal out.... and now I want the delivery. My favorite track is "Retro Color Clash".... Theres seven total songs on the CD that play pretty well together...
THE ABNOXIOUS SCALE OF MUSIC PITH RATING: 8. This CD is interesting and I enjoy listening to it.
Before I listened to the CD. I told the singer that I was going to punch him in the face once for everytime I hear the mention of the word "baby". I can say and do shit like that because the singer of this band is pretty scrawny and I am signifigantly bigger than him. That kid, and I can call him ‘kid’ because I am 30 years old (its a rule that if yer 30 or older, those 29 or younger you can call ‘kids’; I like to refer to many as ‘good kids’) ALSO said that the pictures on the CD sort of tell a story..."The cover sort of looks like a rip off of Fugazis first one" I said which led the whole band scurrying to find a copy to compare... It doesent really but I still dont get the story....I mean, im getting a murder-suicide vibe but Im not sure.... lots of blood that dont look like blood.... I just wonder why I cant find this kid anywhere....(Shawn Abnoxious)
- online publication

"News Record - interview"

After only two years of existence, Death in Graceland is making some real interesting noise in Camp Washington these days. By applying such influences as metal and country over more basic punk rock beats the band has developed a strikingly original sound in an otherwise unoriginal genre.
"It's experimental rock 'n' roll kind of stuff," said bassist Kevin Warwick. "It's not as straightforward and it's a little stranger."
Death in Graceland's first album, Come on, Touch me, demonstrates the band's roots in early punk rock and metal with loud and piercing lead guitar riffs that blend surprisingly well with singer Matt Ayers' soulful choruses.
"We structure a lot of our songs around licks, which is what the Dead Kennedys did, and that kind of gives it a grittier feeling," said Warwick.
The result is a collection of songs, mostly about girls, that sound somewhat sinister and dark.
The band attributes its songwriting topics to Ayers' frequent break-ups.
"Each album comes out, perfectly, right after one of his girlfriends breaks up with him," said Warwick. "That's the only time Matt can write lyrics, otherwise he has nothing to do."
The five-piece band also says it enjoys practicing in the somewhat intimidating neighborhood of Camp Washington.
"It's all factories so it's dead after like 8 o'clock," said Warwick. "We're right by the Jergens plant so there's never any commotion at all."
That is, until band practice starts.
Death in Graceland began when guitarist Greg Beale and drummer Patrick Walkenhorst's band, Frantic Romantic, broke up and they were looking to start something new.
Warwick had gone to Oak Hills High School with Beale and the three recruited Ayers to sing. They added Kane Kitchen as a second guitar soon after.
The band recorded its seven-song EP after less than a year and began touring in an old conversion van.
A 1986 Dodge "Cruzzer" to be exact.
"It's a hoss," said Warwick. "It's pretty interesting trying to fit six people sleeping in a van so we've ended up in some very precarious situations."
Although traveling the East Coast and sneaking beers in the van is fun for the boys, their real fancy is playing shows.
One of the band's best shows came about after they returned from a tour and played to a small upstairs party-like crowd at The Void in Northside.
"We had a really crappy PA and everybody was just singing along and we had just gotten back from a two and a half week tour so it was just a good release," said Warwick.
The band is currently mixing a five-song album that was recorded months ago with hopes of finding some support.
"We're recording this demo so we don't have to do another DIY [do it yourself] tour," said Warwick. "Our tour in the winter was sweet but the one this summer sucked because people kept canceling on us. We just want to get some support from someone like a booking agent or any type of label."
Although the band says that the new album is more technical, it is based on the same diversity and energy that the first was.
"The songs are more intricate. They're still really dark but mainly the music is just a lot more complicated," said Warwick.
As Death in Graceland tries to make itself known outside of Cincinnati and the typical punk rock category, it will rely on the variety of musical influences that has separated it thus far.
"We'll write some really punk songs sometimes but right now we're writing a song that's straight rock 'n' roll the entire time," said Warwick. "We mix it up pretty much."
"For the most part we have that punk root to us that will always be there."
Death in Graceland will play with Dixie Trash and The Virgins Saturday, April 10 at the Northside Tavern located at 4156 Hamilton Ave. For more information, visit or call the Northside Tavern at (513) 542-3603. (Danny Cross, Et Cetera Editor - University of Cincinnati


I had the priviledge to see this band live before reviewing this CD because they are a native to the Cincinnati Area. So I knew even before I had a chance to listen to the new release that I wasn't gonna be dissappointed. It was a change of pace from the above album, but a good one. Death In Graceland was not like the million of other generic rock bands out there. They brought something fresh to their music that drew me in, something most rock bands can not do for me. Any already local fan is going to love this new release, but I'm confident that they are gonna succeed to pull in a larger fan base with this album from both the punk and rock scenes! If your in the Cincinnati Area, be sure to try and check out Death In Graceland at The Void <> if possible.
- online publication


"Come On, Touch Me" - 7 Song EP
"The White Bible Belt" (tentatively titled) - 6 Song Demo/EP

Death In Graceland has had songs played on the 97.3 Cincinnati air waves - "Dance Floor Disaster" and "Retro Color Clash"

The band has songs available on MySpace, Soundclick, and PureVolume for streaming and downloading.


Feeling a bit camera shy


After surviving tumultuous and unpredictable lives in other Cincinnati rock bands, the members of Death In Graceland found each other in the summer of 2002. The chemistry between the five young men was automatically apparent and lethal. Combining a delicious blend of heartbreak, rock n' roll, and sass, Death In Graceland immediately began playing shows and recording material after only a brief existence of two months. With demo in hand, the boys of Graceland decided to head out on the road for some tour experience. This successful journey brought a sense of enthusiasm and promise to the band as they began to concentrate on writing songs for their freshman album. While in the midst of composing a variety of music ranging from hypnotic dance tunes to gritty, abrasive rock, the band continued to play out at different venues around the midwest.

In October of 2002, the band headed into the studio to record seven songs that would be deemed as the dark-hearted album "Come On, Touch Me." The album would include such colorful tunes as, "Your Ass or a Hole in the Ground" and "Dance Floor Disaster." With label support from Formula47 Records, Death In Graceland finished up the album and began to anticipate an upcoming east coast tour to promote the new record. When the album was released in early 2003, the band hit the road. The tour was a great success, and the crowd response was very fulfilling.

Arriving back home in Cincinnati, Death In Graceland once again took to writing songs. In addition, Death In Graceland was honored to be chosen to play the prestigious "North By Northeast" (NXNE) Festival in Toronto, Canada in June 2003. Another east coast tour in the summer accompanied by continued positive press and reviews has only helped energize the band to tour more. They were nominated for a CEA Award for Best Punk Band, and "Come On, Touch Me" was named 2003 Record Of The Year by CityBeat, the most popular independent publication in Cincinnati.

The band has become accustomed to providing for themselves and through that process, have become diligent in making themselves both more prominent and successful as a musical group. With aspirations of touring as much as possible with new material, Death In Graceland headed back into the studio in early 2004 to record six songs that would be tentatively titled as "The White Bible Belt". The recording is comprised of more intricate and abrasive songs than the previous recording, but still holds true to the same mesmerizing feel that "Come On, Touch Me" presents. "The White Bible Belt" contains such musical numbers as "Chalk Up Another One for Special Teams" and "Smooth, Just Like Jazz". During the process of recording, the band was invited to play 'Jammin' on Main' (the largest Cincinnati musical event that displays both local and national acts over the entirety of a weekend), Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, the Midwest Music Summit in Indianapolis, and the Cincinnati date of The Vans Warped Tour. They were also awarded the CEA for "Cincinnati's Best Punk Band" by Citybeat at the end of 2004.

As they approach three years of camaraderie together, the boys of Death In Graceland are more loyal to the band than ever. Although one of the founding members has left the band, each of the four remaining members devotes his time to touring as much as possible and looks forward to hitting the road even more in the future. In the beginning on 2005, They added a guitarist in Tim Elsey (ex-Junior Revolution). Currently, the band is playing shows in Cincinnati and is in the process of writing an album tentatively titled "It's Hard To Get Off When There's Nothing To Get On."

Influences include: Hot Snakes, Led Zeppelin, Rye Coalition, Blood Brothers, Rites Of Spring, Jesus Lizard, Black Heart Procession, Nation Of Ulysses, The Stooges, Murder City Devils, Grand Funk Railroad, Rolling Stones, Fugazi, Black Sabbath, and Minor Threat.