By Connie Roses
“I don’t wanna be that guy anymore. And I pray that human beings can change their nature. Cause if they can’t, then you and I are in big trouble…”
These haunting words open Nate Cross’ Dracula Days, an album that reaches down into the depths of Cross’ psyche, insecurities, and paranoia. These three themes work in tandem to express Cross’ obsession with changing himself and his environment. Much like The Sopranos, and its violent yet surprisingly empathetic main character Tony Soprano, the struggle to change is the ultimate focus of this project. Led by an unreliable narrator in a ruthless world, the listener must decide whether Cross has met his ultimate goal, to change, by the end of the album.
Backed by an incredible lyrical performance, Dracula Days’ greatest strength is indeed its storytelling. Consistent self loathing and regret ooze their way in as the tracks dive into the swamp of both the overarching and individual stories Cross tells. Several times on “Push It” Cross will share his inability to care or keep fighting for meaning in his life. Cross states “I lost myself and that’s my nonchalant excuse. What can I say, I’m not myself!” and bleakly admits that he’s “lost [his] mind.” This creates an interesting juxtaposition as, ultimately, Cross repeats “PUSH IT” on the chorus, revealing his opposition to several of his seemingly nonchalant and ‘too cool for life’ feelings. In addition, this juxtaposition also builds a distrust in the listener as it makes them unsure of how Cross truly feels.
Many more times Cross will go on tangents in his tracks that reveal an extreme inability to cope with one’s thoughts, and his paradoxical behavior. In “My House” for example, Cross describes the inside of a horror movie-like house where the ceiling will crush him and the ground will swallow him whole. He describes it as “barely a home.” His relationship with paranoia is both terrifying yet beautifully woven and explained to the audience. All the while Cross on a majority of the track is gleefully chanting “Na Na Na Na”, like it’s a whimsical Beatles track. With this being said, we must not forget the sound and moods explored throughout the project which also give us a portrait of Cross’ feelings.
In the abrasive “Oblivion Beach” Cross utilizes violent guitar riffs and rough vocals to hide insecurities of loneliness. Many times on Dracula Days it will feel like a hardcore, heavy rock inspired project where aggression is Cross’ main focus, which indeed it is. But, “Live Here Reprise” and “I Used To Live Here” bring a further variety to the tape by exploring ambient, more solemn spaces which give way to more reliable reflection. The airy “Live Here Reprise” serves as the first time on the album where heavy riffs and fuzzy guitars don’t appear. Instead, it’s a wordless, slowly building symphony of synths that one might resonate with hope, and in this case, the hope to really change. But it’s not until “I Used To Live Here” – four tracks later – that the tone changes again. Only this time there seems to be a power and a rage behind Cross’ hope for change, and a finality to the answer of whether he has changed.
By the title of the track, the audience can assume that Cross is beginning to move on from his fight with paranoia and insecurity. He opens with the question “Do you think we’ll miss this place?” and states that “From the start [he] knew [he’d] break. All the drama, blinking, you might miss it… Where the love began.”
Cross is ultimately expressing a twisted yet relatable sentiment that we all must deal with; the comfortable relationship we form with apathy. It’s a relationship that can be found in Cross’ nonchalant, unserious attitude in many of the tracks. It can also be found in the hopeful chords that bring the album to a close. It’s glued to the front and back of every feeling that we either do or don’t want to feel. Apathy is much more consistent in our life than anything else sometimes, making it an easy feeling to “fall in love” with. But Cross decides that moving on from it is the best decision to make, even if it’s a terrifying decision, and brings the album to a triumphant close.