The follow-up to their 2008 self-titled debut, the new record by Memphis alternative-metal outfit Egypt Central is an ambitious effort. Not only is it a concept album about the overall consequences of drugs, death, grief, and the struggle to pick up the pieces afterward, but it's also accompanied by a comic strip in the CD's booklet illustrated by bassist Joey Chicago to follow along with the music.
And from the opening song, "Ghost Town," there's plenty to follow. The listener is instantly dragged down the rabbit hole, so to speak, by the raging guitars, punchy drum fills, and lead vocalist John Falls' trademark screeches and growls. The journey reaches an early climax with the contrasting songs "Good Night" and "Kick Ass," which typify the mix of tragedy and comedy within the album. "Good Night" is a depiction of death: Watching what is perhaps a drug overdose of a girlfriend or loved one, the main character in the record's narrative looks on helplessly as she dies, and is forced almost immediately to deal with the harsh reality of what just happened. The music is as emotionally draining as the lyrics are, with its melancholy guitars and tender breakdown. Then, like an adrenaline shot to the chest, follow-up track "Kick Ass" shocks the listener out of the latter song's reverie. An almost punk anthem of revenge, about seeking out and ultimately destroying the supplier and enemy (the comic strip names the villain as one Fatty McArbuckle—the White Rabbit himself), its theme is perfectly matched by its speedy guitars and heavy hitting drums.
But if those back-to-back songs are White Rabbit's highlight, the album doesn't have any letdowns. Fans already won over by Egypt Central's previous record will recognize the band's original sound here, and new listeners will be taken a wild ride to a strange, dark wonderland and back. Follow the White Rabbit. SARAH B. KOENIG