For over half of a decade Good To Die Records has been the heartbeat of the Seattle underground rock community. The roots are much deeper than the incredible records that have been put out by this label. Head honcho Nik Christofferson has been involved with the scene for… pretty much forever. Nik evolved from a fan who wanted more into a concert photographer, blogger, and show booker. That still wasn’t enough. He wanted more still. He wanted to bring the music that he loves and that tends to get overlooked by most labels to a wider range of people.
The Pacific Northwest is rich with talent. Countless bands come and go without reaching an audience beyond their neighborhood. Those kickass backyard BBQ shows that you wonder how they weren’t famous (eg: Absolute Monarchs). Those small club show openers that blow the headliners out of the water (eg: Brokaw). Nik has a nose for those bands.
The common theme that all bands on the GTD roster seem to follow is a killer rhythm section, fun as hell live show and damn good people.
Running Good To Die Records is a labor of love as it is something he does when he isn’t being a working stiff. It is a one man operation for the most part (with the help of friends and family). GTD allows bands that have families and jobs the ability to still kick ass and rock out when they have time (eg: Sandrider). It nurtures bands that have aspirations of being national powerhouses (eg: Dogshredder, now known as Wild Throne). It can feel like an incubation chamber for various musicians throughout the Seattle band landscape to come together for new and exciting projects (eg: Deadkill, Bood Drugs). It spawns trendsetting hooligans responsible for waves of clones across the country (eg: Monogamy Party).
With all of the hard work involved there are the perks. The ability to give these bands the vinyl treatment. Putting out a split involving one of Nik’s favorite Seattle bands (Kinski). Releasing an insane collaborative album by two of the best bands out there (see our review from last year of that: Gaytheist/Rabbits). There are no constraints to what sort of music needs to be involved other than “does Nik think it fits into his vision of what a Good To Die band sounds like.” Enter Merso.
A RILY email subject line about them would include My Morning Jacket, King Crimson, Fleet Foxes, Yes and Explosions In The Sky.
The debut full length from Merso, Red World is being released on October 21st. With so many comparisons to the prog greats of the past naturally the album feels like one singular story. Listen to it and let your imagination take over while keeping in mind that the inspiration for the record comes from the comic Swamp Thing. For THIS listener the major theme takeaway is the fact that the world is a beautiful place that is full of people that have the capability to do very ugly things. Throughout the record there are countless shifts. Shifts in sound, pace and expectations on what you are about to hear.
Merso emits glimmers of sonic hope that are eventually submerged by the weight of it all.
They are able to coax the listener into putting their guard down and once it feels safe they unlock an insane ability to unleash a truly punishing experience. Red World is the most ambitious GTD release to date. A 2LP full of sprawling beautiful harmonies plastered with psychedelics dripping down your ear canals mixed with crushing culminations that prove this band can get heavy with the best of them.
Merso will keep you on your toes.
“Reunion Show” is a sensual R&B/soul tinged jam. It would not feel out of place in a swanky club downtown with fancy cocktails flowing and lovers lighting each other’s cigs. Before you get too comfortable they spice it up with a rapid bass flash that Yes would be proud of. “Librium” is where they really grab you by the throat. It is the perfect blend of dreamy and heavy. “Serial Killer” is contender for song of the year. This song acts a lot like a shapeshifting snake charmer. Hypnotizing and entrancing for most of the song. Towards the end it changes form into a wrecking ball and absolutely crushes the block with an epic finish.
Due to Merso sounding a lot different than their label mates it is inevitable that people will wonder why Good To Die Records signed them. To me it is a no brainer. They fit everything that Nik likes. Killer rhythm section? Absolutely. Put on a good live show? Fantastic. Good people? Nicest dudes. This band deserves recognition beyond where they come from and Good To Die continues to be that rock, championing innovative underground music in the Pacific Northwest.
If you have a chance to catch these guys play live make sure you take the opportunity. The record release show is 10/21/2016 at Black Lodge (Seattle). Pick up some beautiful wax limited to 100 copies (LP1 – Double Mint / LP2 – Grimace Purple) and 400 copies (Classic Black) at the show or over here –> Merso – Red World