When I first hit play on Eksi Ekso’s Archfiend, I was taken aback by the oh-so ‘80s sound (but in a good, this-is-what-the’80s-should-have-sounded-like way.) As the album went on, the music seems to be influenced by ‘80s musical acts but gets far more modern as the tracks progress. The songs on Eksi Ekso’s third full-length album create some serious temptation to chair-dance (which I gave in to a couple of times, I couldn’t resist on “Gold Cures”) and have some saxophone that worked. Keep in mind that I have a hard time taking saxophone parts seriously because I have to listen to ’80s and ‘90s soft rock at work all day, so if the saxophone worked for me, it’ll work for anyone.
The album’s heavy use of bass, strong drums, and singer Tom Korkidis’ low voice (which switches to falsetto for some tracks) give this album some sexiness. Adding to the attractiveness is the old-timey lyrics. Frankly, I don’t think we hear enough about troubadours and harlots these days. Turns out the lyrics are actually talking about a really twisted old-timey serial killer. He killed those harlots… and then some.
If I hadn’t been told that Archfiend is a “modern up-tempo art pop record about one of America’s first documented serial killers,” I probably wouldn’t have figured out the second part. This album sounds like it has a dark side, but it has a really dark side. Knowing about the whole serial killer thing, the record has extra layers. The cover art is a colorful take on H.H. Holmes’ 1895 mugshot and the songs offer little glimpses into the history of this really messed up guy. Seemingly innocent lyrics about a castle and going down a chute get really dark when you read Holmes’ Wikipedia page and realize that he opened a hotel designed for killing, dubbed the “Murder Castle,” that had chutes to send dead bodies from upper floors to the basement to be disposed of in some very thorough ways. “Heiresses” is about the two railroad heiresses he killed to inherit some property in Texas. “Trophy Horse” has lyrics that say “out of thousands of girls, it happened to her, not some trophy horse.” Holmes’ victims were mostly women. Listen closely to the MP3 below and you’ll pick up on the murder theme. This is a great album even if you don’t catch all of the references to H. H. Holmes and the murders he committed, when you know about them it just adds a neat extra layer. Well, actually, it’s a creepy extra layer if you read up on Holmes.
MP3: Eksi Ekso “Trophy Horse”