Damon Baxter, aka Deadly Avenger, seems to have found a well of inspiration in the last few months. Not only has he continued his musical contributions to film and television, but he has also set out to deliver a prolific run of Deadly Avenger albums since last year. You might recall his Death Waltz Originals release Everyday Is Kill from last year. That led us to last month’s excellent I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan with Burning Witches Records. Now with the latest album, the sublime and dreamy The Girl With The White Orchid, he’s released a collaborative effort with producer extraordinaire Pete Diggens. Baxter’s not done folks, there is more coming very soon. But for now, let’s concentrate on the present, shall we?
Not only is Damon Baxter releasing music like a man with limited time left on this earth, each release has its own personality and purpose. Everyday Is Kill was a neo-futuristic, dytopian soundtrack that owed its existence to cheesy sci-fi flicks of the 80s that imagined a post-apocalyptic 1995 where radiation burnt the wasteland(but leather one-pieces were all the rage.) I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan is a bombastic record filled with massive beats and earth-shaking synths that were as monumental as the album title’s namesake.
Now, with The Girl With The White Orchid, Deadly Avenger and music producer, as well as frequent musical collaborator Pete Diggens bring the tone down to more art house fare. Quieter electronic motifs that paint an aural vision with wistful strokes and calm reflection.
Listening to The Girl With The White Orchid, I’m reminded of a composer like Disasterpeace. Disasterpeace, aka Rich Vreeland, works mostly in video game scores(though has started to delve into films.) He’s paid to turn a world made of pixels and code into something extraordinary. He pulls you in with his music and makes you believe in this world built with zeros and ones. I feel that Damon Baxter and Pete Diggens are doing something very similar here. They’ve built a musical world here that pulls you in with subtlety and nuance. Hard, buzzing synths and explosive beats are replaced with more Vangelis-like touches.
“Love Inside” sounds almost brittle. The slightest movement could break its gentle sway. A simple synth line slowly swells with strings which elevates the piece into some higher realm. “Sadness Apart” conveys a sweetness and subtle beauty that is reminiscent of Paul Haslinger’s work. There’s still very much an 80s sci-fi feel, but the more tasteful stuff and less chrome codpieces and muscle cars with sheet metal attached to the outside.
“Lie In Wait” is darker than what came before it. You can almost imagine this hanging comfortably with Brad Fiedel’s Terminator work. What’s better that subtle doom? Nothing. “Girl With The White Orchid” brings back some of that videogame magic. Sort of a cross between Panos Cosmatos’ dark vision of a neo-futuristic 80s and early NES scores. Pure and visceral at the same time. “Then There Were None” is all warbly synth and wavering tension. I love the blurring of mood here. It goes from longing to slow-creeping anxiety in a matter of seconds. “A Better Tomorrow” sounds like the intro or outro of some early 70s program. Bendable yet articulate, it lays the groundwork for something bigger. It could be the beginning or ending. You pick.
The outlier is ending track “Nightrunner”. It is definitely more a hard synth 80s track in comparison to what came before it. At first you might think this doesn’t belong, but after repeated listens it really does feel like an end credits scene to what came before it. It’s quite a brilliant way to end The Girl With The White Orchid.
Damon Baxter knows how to build mood, regardless of whether you need bombast or subtle darkness. And with Pete Diggens’ musical resume from over the last 20 years(it is extensive and impressive to say the least. Check it out here), there’s really no way that this album isn’t going to be an amazing listen. As much as I loved what’s come before, I think this might be some of Deadly Avenger’s best work to date. Each solo release reveals a little more about Deadly Avenger and the many facets of his musical imagination. The Girl With The White Orchid is a huge leap forward for our favorite Avenger.
8.2 out of 10