His Name Is Alive has released their latest album, Tecuciztecatl, and – stay with me here – it’s a prog rock opera about a demon fetus and its innocent twin in the womb. The mother realizes something is up, goes to a doctor for an ultrasound and finds out there’s bad stuff going down in half of her uterus. She then goes to research it at a library and luckily the librarian is also a demon fighter (is that you, Rupert Giles?) The demon-fighting librarian and the mother perform some rituals to get rid of the demon twin while keeping the good twin intact and in the end, just one twin is born. Also, the album’s name is the name of the Aztec moon god. As crazy as it sounds, it works. Livonia, Michigan’s His Name Is Alive has been making music since the ‘80s with their one constant member, Warren Defever, and a changing lineup of other musicians. This is the 14th studio album for the experimental rock band; this record packs in progressive and psychedelic rock, Afro-pop, and a little pastoral.
In preparation for this album, Defever and guitarist Dusty Jones made a super cut of every Thin Lizzy guitar solo form 1973 to 1983. That explains a lot of it: there are big solos and lots of riffs, especially toward the beginning of the album when the epic fetus war is going on. The guitars help to make this album epic enough to qualify as a rock opera. The album opens with “The Examination,” a 13-minute long track that really sets the tone for a rock opera. It changes from pastoral flute to heavily distorted guitars to an ‘80s Paul McCartney-ish tune. When the vocals start up, it gets a little Polyphonic Spree, then goes a little bit rockabilly. It screams prog rock opera. However, the rest of the album calms down a bit and the songs could each be enjoyed separately from the rest of the album without knowing the entire storyline. In fact, you might not even peg the rest of the album as a rock opera. Toward the end of the album, the sounds soften and there are fewer mega-riffs. This is the end of the epic fetal war on the plains of the uterus, after all. “African Violet Casts a Spell” is pretty, the guitar are clean and distortion-free, and the percussion is provided by what sounds like a bathtub full of water. Despite its ominous title, “I Will Disappear You” is a sweet, soft song. “The Cup” brings a brief, pastoral resolution to the album.
As mentioned before, this is a rock opera. Despite there being five characters, all parts are sung by the very talented Andrea Francesca Morici. She even sings the backing vocals. She has a beautiful voice; unfortunately, she doesn’t change her delivery at all between songs. It makes the storyline a little harder to follow than it would be if, say, different voices were used for each character, but Morici’s pretty vocals do keep a sense of continuity among the songs. “See You In a Minute” is from the perspective of the mother meeting with the librarian (I think.) Many of the songs seem to be one twin singing to the other about reflection, still in utero. Spoiler alert: “Yes Yes Yesterday” is from the perspective of the good, victorious twin. There’s a lot about twin connection and reflection, plus some twin mythology. The story can be a bit tough to follow as you listen carefully to figure out who is singing to whom, but you can also enjoy the album without focusing on the story.
This album is a little wacky on first listen (and especially on first background research,) but if you can enjoy a good riff, some soft vocals and synth, it just might grow on you. The arrangements are well done, the guitar is powerful, and Morici’s vocals are very pretty. All of those elements just happen to combine on a prog rock opera about a fetal twin battle. And by the way, if you want to know how to pronounce Tecuciztecatl, the band has provided an educational video on YouTube.