January 11, 2021 by 1888media
International collective When Planets Align return January 21 with the title track to their forthcoming operatic opus, The Death of Us, an unflinching first-person account of earth-shattering love, loss, grief and redemption.
Releasing via Planet LA Records, “The Death of Us” is a melodic pop/rock drama punctuated by an electric guitar extravaganza. Thematically, it represents not only grief and loss, but learning to let go when “what we had and knew” is gone. It also investigates the psychic shock of losing a relationship that seemed so strong, so authentic, so cosmic.
Timed to launch exactly one month after the rare occurrence of Jupiter and Saturn aligning in the sky, appearing to merge as one, taking on the appearance of an elongated star, the intergalactic allusions are intentional.
A cosmic creative conjunction between Colombian composer Juan Andrés Lizarazo (aka Juanlizh) and Vietnamese-American poet Mark Nguyen, the duo struck up an immediate kinship, musically and professionally, while enrolled in the music business program at UCLA.
Over the past dozen years, the collaborators have released three albums, Radio Silence (2009), The Universe in Me (2012) and 2019’s Lovers & Angels, which debuted at a release event at the Santa Monica Playhouse in Santa Monica, CA. Social imprimatur Bionic Buzz lauded its significant examination of sentient and spiritual passion.
Nguyen, lyricist for their breadth of repertoire, extolls their inclusive vision, “When Planets Align represents the idea of people of different cultures and backgrounds coming together for a common love of creating music and art.” Adds Lizarazo, who’s guitar style is a mixture of Santana and Steve Vai with Colombian rhythmic flavor, ”We wanted to conceive a power duo that encircles our strengths. Many times music duos or teams try to outshine each other but this is not the case with our collaboration. We make the creative destination the best it can be by fusing our ambitions.”
Originally scheduled for release in 2020, the challenge of staying connected during a global pandemic, which prohibited the artists from recording in person, the extraordinary real world backdrop added an extra dose of intense ambiance, none-more-so than on the climatic closer “My Greatest Muse,” which sounds like Matt Bellamy proffering a Moroccan rock concoction of RENT, Wagner, and Rocky Horror Picture Show mixed with shards of Supermassive Black Hole.
With additional production by Sergio Martinez and Federico Perez in Bogotá and Joshua ‘Cartier’ Cutsinger in L.A., the 6-song emotional revolution takes flight on the 21st of January with the release of the title track, a spirited duet with Shalini Varghese, a powerful, multi-octave vocalist of Indian origin who’s been compared to Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and Aaliyah, and Gabe Kubanda, an indie-pop artist who starred on VH1’s Rock ’n Roll Fantasy Camp after several stints on Vans Warped Tour. “I had the pleasure of contributing vocals on this special song about the loss of love. The lyrics really resonated,” said Kubanda with Varghese adding, “The Death of Us is deeply emotional. It called for me to channel the voice and feelings of a heartbroken woman.”
Other torch-bearers include Mexican-American singer/actor Diego Garcia (Stage 11, Bell Canyon, Raising Hope) on the classic country rumble of “Stepping Stone” and four appearances by Boogiewhip (born Jonathan Grout), a magnetic LGBTQ icon known for his mercurial Adam Lambert meets Freddie Mercury vocals/stage performances as lead singer of Hollywood-based Dirty Little Creatures (and formerly Hot Sauce Holiday).
Grout scats and gallops through the (Steve Wonder) Superstition blues-funk footsteps of “Validation,” ignites a blaze as he and Varghese add requisite octane to “Redemption,” a harmonic tribute to Ennio Morricone, while exhorting animated syncopation on the Ziggy Stardust-flavored, ’Something Just Wasn’t There.”
Though The Death of Us is an open-hearted loveletter by Nguyen chronicling an intense, but fleeting, romance with a male domestic partner, ultimately, it’s an apt soundtrack to all that was 2020, both the year and the sense of perceived perfect vision. It’s a kaleidoscope of emotions navigating life, love, loss, and transformation in the throes of isolation mandated by lockdowns.
Schedules permitting, Nguyen, who’s also an adjunct professor at several California State University campuses, and Lizarazo, a Yale University grad, and in-demand composer, arranger and collaborator who’s written over 200 songs, hope to, once again, stage a live production (at the conclusion of the pandemic) to truly resurrect this epic tale of soulmates, muses and cataclysms.
When planets align, it’s spellbindingly divine.
When Planets Align – ‘The Death of Us’
1. The Death of Us ft. Gabe Kubanda & Shalini Varghese
2. Validation ft. Boogiewhip
3. Redemption ft. Boogiewhip & Shalini Varghese
4. Stepping Stone ft. Diego Garcia
5. Something Just Wasn’t There ft. Boogiewhip
6. My Greatest Muse ft. Boogiewhip