Pete Mills opens The Sweet Kill’s “War” with some musical sleight of hand. The nearly four minute song opens as an atmospheric piece, sans bluster or brio, before Mills foregoes the restrained introduction in favor of a hard-hitting industrial influence musical assault. It is appropriate considering the song’s subject matter – the horrors of drug addiction are often peaks and valleys of a kind, the desperation of need, the lull of intoxication, and Mills captures some of that dramatic arc with the way he structures “War” from the beginning. He certainly favors hard rock posturing with this song, cut with a generous influence of electronic music, but “War” is far from an one note performance.
It has a fully integrated sound with vocals, percussion, and guitar working in seamless concert rather than pulling against one another. Mills’ long experience as a producer, with credits including Sheryl Crow among other talents, undoubtedly informs the sonic trajectory of this song and frames it in the best possible way for listeners. The Sweet Kill, based in Los Angeles, are vying to be heard in a crowded local field and having an expert hand turning dials and manipulating faders is, undoubtedly, a secret weapon of sorts that might raise The Sweet Kill above their peers.
Mills has a varied vocal approach that rates among the song’s highlights. He does an excellent job bringing the admittedly dark lyrical content to life, embodying the struggle and pain of an addict’s life without ever veering melodrama, and the focused writing is key to bringing that off. Despite working as a producer for a number of years now, Mills has obviously lost none of the performing instincts that originally brought him to Los Angeles as leader of a now defunct band named Flash Bastard and his skill set complements the track in a way that few of his immediate peers can likely match.
I particularly like how Mills merges electronic influences with the song’s obvious hard rock pedigree, but yet he shows how talented he is manipulating the rise and fall of instrumentation to produce maximum drama for listeners. There is a certain level of predictability inherent with this song, but it’s the best kind – you expect the song to take certain turns and will feel intensely gratified for how well Mills pulls off each of those moments. “War”, likewise, might have proven a closed off experience for other listeners in the hands of different songwriting talents, but Mills straddles the line between making a personal statement and crafting a work of musical art a wide swath of listeners can relate to.
The Sweet Kill makes a deep impact with the single “War” and, despite its heavy subject matter, Pete Mills makes it an engrossing listening experience that never drains listeners. Instead, it’s an involving single from the first and proves, if proof is needed, that Mills has a clear vision for what he hopes to accomplish with this project. Coming in on the ground floor of possibly transformative acts is always an exciting experience and you have that with The Sweet Kill – there’s enormous ongoing potential for this project.