Artists do not always choose a career in music, sometimes it chooses them. Such is the case of Dead Rabbitts. In combining the talents of Craig Mabbitt (vocals), T.J. Bell (bass, back-up vocals), Alex Torres (lead guitar) and Chris Julien (drums), Dead Rabbitts brings the best of the top hardcore musicians together. While much has been made of who the members of the band are and where they came from, it is essential to focus on the music they have produced for us in their debut album, Shapeshifter, with the support of Caleb Shomo and Tragic Hero Records.
The most compelling lyrics are based on life experience. The title track, “Shapeshifter”, recounts how some situations can spiral out of control. The words of the song say, “I’ll sacrifice myself/just to end this.” When this happens, it is often necessary to remove yourself in order to end the conflict, even if it means personal sacrifice. Lyrics from the song “Edge of Reality” describe the ups and downs of the creative process: “Demons in my head/They drown me with regret/This bottle’s all I have/So many times my dreams collapse.” It is difficult to cope with aspirations that remain unfilled, but that alone becomes a driving force to achieve even higher goals.
Music is a perpetual learning process that does not end. Mabbitt explains, “As an artist of anything you are constantly growing and changing. This is something we do because we have to, it’s just who we are.” The members of Dead Rabbitts create music because they cannot imagine not creating music. On Shapeshifter, Mabbitt’s vocals are faultless, with seamless transitions between gut-wrenching unclean vocals and note-perfect refrains. The process in recording vocals for this collection evolved naturally – it was never contrived or forced, allowing the passion of Mabbitt’s songs to shine through. Paired with driving guitar riffs by Torres, an unrelenting bass line from Bell and perfect timing from Julien, Dead Rabbitts is tailor-made for hardcore lovers.
The road to success is never traveled alone. Mabbitt is well known for his ability to encourage young musicians, but he is simply passing on what helped him to reach for the stars. When a local band played at his church, Mabbitt had the opportunity to see that music was a viable career for him. The personal words of encouragement from Greeley Estates solidified his determination to bring his own music to life. It was the first time Mabbitt realized that bands could play at that level, believing that all musicians were either superstars or playing in the garage. Bell tells a similar story about the first time he saw a local show, “I thought the same thing. These guys are huge. I want to be in that band.” Those first experiences provided the inspiration for Mabbitt and Bell to go forward with an understanding that success comes in degrees.
The strength of Dead Rabbitts lies in their stage show. As a hardcore aficionado, I liked the new album the first time I heard it, but I added it to the top of my playlist after attending their live performance. The audience responded to every tune like a well-rehearsed ballet. It was personal as they sang along with the new songs. It was up close and intimate as the spectators exchanged words of admiration with Mabbitt and other band members during pauses. Excitement swept the crowd when they announced an upcoming music video featuring the new songs. Mabbitt expressed his desire to write a number one hit and with Shapeshifter premiering at #1 on the Heatseekers Chart, his dream is closer to being reality. In the end, all the stories about how these four guys came to play together mattered little to me. It never occurred to me to compare them with former bands, previous releases, or other musicians because, like my fellow Dead Rabbitts fans, I just wanted ‘one more song.’