The first thing you might notice about Nam Wayne’s “Angels of Death” is the absence of his signature amps and drums. In his other songs, the drums are prominently beating away, and the amps are turned up nice and loud for a strong guitar to bust through. Instead, in this song, Wayne takes on a very different acoustic route, and the track’s description on SoundCloud explains why: “It’s…written during Nam’s daily 5am Covid lockdown sessions.”
Wayne wrote this piece in the midst of Covid-19, a time wrought with lots of questions and uncertainty, something that is vividly reflected in this song. The first little detail that makes itself known is the distorted guitar. Pair that with Wayne’s voice filtered to have a kind of Johnny Cash vibe (not quite as low range but just as baritone rich), and you get the chills.
The lyrics are an adventure. Before really listening intently to them, you definitely get the sense that something is up; there’s no way the song can sound as it does without there being some embedded message. There’s a lot to unfold and contemplate, as well as noticeable references to carefully selected modern or historical figures, which include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, French philosopher Michel Foucault, and renaissance Italian preacher Savonarola. On SoundCloud, the song is described to be a “snapshot of America nearly a decade deep in unchecked Kremlin destabilization efforts in a time of corporate feudalism and plague.” It’s almost a mouthful to say, much more so to comprehend. But it seems that’s just what the song intends to evoke in its listener. It wants you to think, and it achieves that goal effortlessly.
First of all, there’s a clear reference to a certain time of the past: medieval Europe, between the 9th and 15th centuries. Feudalism, plague, and…
Where Savonarola vows
To the drooling of the crowds,
Gauging sins by the weighing of birds.
…are the explicit references, and then there is reference to a modern/dystopian world: corporate, vaccines, Costco, and…
I’m a post post modern man
In a post post post modern world.
This juxtaposition in a song that is about America in the future (near or far? Who can say?)…is it hinting that perhaps it’s actually a commentary on the present, and where that present is inevitably going? Again, who can say?
It’s also worth taking notice of the only lyrics that are repeated:
The skies turned to meth
And the angels of death
Rode bicycles around the sun
The skies turn to meth
And the angels of death
Ride bicycles around the sun
The first set occurs at the beginning of the song, and the second set occurs at the end. The little detail of the grammatical change from past to present tense says so much beyond a possible proofread error. There’s no accident here. The song is stuffed with intention.
“Angels of Death” is not your everyday song. The dark musical and lyrical tones don’t necessarily make it an easy listen, but no way is that a bad thing. Fans of folksy songs that aren’t afraid of a little existential honesty will love this one. And if you’re a fan of rock n’ roll and aren’t afraid of a little existential honesty, you’ll love Wayne’s other music, too.