REVIEW: Famous Last Words - ‘Council of the Dead’
Council of the Dead is the sophomore album from Michigan quartet Famous Last Words and, yes, it’s another concept album (hooray!).
The storyline of the album take us into the realm of the deceased, in an environment similar to that of a group therapy room. The opening track, must like the prelude to a stage show, is basically the preview to the story. Followed by the second track, ‘Council of the Dead’, where we find vocalist JT Tollas acting as sort of an MC, explaining that these people have been gathered to come to terms with their passing by each telling their respective stories, which are delivered through the ensuing tracks, each relating to one of the characters of the story.
Not only is the album a beautifully constructed story, with not only 8 different character narratives running, but all 8 being connected in one way or another, but there is a message raising awareness for a number of very real tales of death, such as suicide (‘One in the Chamber’), overdoses (‘Fading Memories’) and DUI car crashes (‘Hell in the Headlights’) among others.
The tales begin in the form of ‘The Fog’, which tells the story of an old woman who suffered with dementia, and end with ‘One in the Chamber’ – a tale of a man who feels like there is nothing for him left in the world, and is wrecked with the guilt of something he has done. Interestingly, a track is thrown into the mix toward the end of the album from the perspective of a young girl who is alive and trying to help loved ones deal with the loss of the characters. This track is well placed, acting as a sort of interlude from the tales of the dead.
Tollas uses his vocals as a tool to allude to how horrific or brutal each death was. For example, in ‘My Life Before My Eyes’, the vocal is borderline ballady, whereas in ‘the Killing Zone’ the vocal is a full on hardcore scream.
Famous Last Words truly have created a masterpiece in this album. The storytelling, the storyline and the instrumentation work together perfectly, and as all good stories should, takes you on an emotional journey. I would highly recommend buying the hard copy of the album, and reading the lyrics along with each song. You’ll understand the story better and make the album that much more impressive for yourself. This one will be hard for them to top.
Note: Being an concept album, you MUST listen to it in order from start to finish to see its genius.
- The Captain