At the end of his new record, Born Against, Amigo the Devil — also known as songwriter and musician Danny Kiranos — sings, “When the darkness of the tunnel is the last place I go, you’re the closest thing to heaven I’ll ever need.” The lyrics serve as the foundation for “Letter from Death Row” as Kiranos’ narrator considers lost love, and life, while the end draws near. It’s a morbid subject in the hands of most people, but with Kiranos, it’s almost … beautiful.
The space between morbid and beautiful, dark and light, seems to be a familiar one for Amigo the Devil, and on the 10 tracks that comprise Born Against, he navigates it effortlessly.
The amazingly dynamic opening track, “Small Stone,” showcases his hushed vocals steeped in vulnerability only to explode into a surprising croon as he sings, “Tell me the story of lonely and I’ll show you the pain of getting clean.” With that final word, the music surges with an unexpected energy. That energy fades as “Quiet as a Rat” begins, and any glimpse of hope that tried to manifest in “Small Stone,” no matter how small, appears to be gone. The singer raises questions of faith as he examines the plight of different characters: a kid who was beaten bloody at school while “god was nowhere near,” a woman at a bar who died of an overdose and wasn’t found until last call, and a suicidal man who “had the faith of a dog with the debt of a sinner.”
More than simply questioning faith, Kiranos scrutinizes the certainty religious followers cling to when they claim to be born again. “If everyone’s made in ‘his’ image and ‘he’ couldn’t perfect it,” he asks, “then what the hell makes anyone think we can?”
This dark journey takes an interesting turn toward the light on the near-perfect song, “Murder at the Bingo Hall.” Instead of death and destruction, Kiranos focuses on joy and celebration as the track’s character absolutely slays bingo every Wednesday night. There’s nothing deeply spiritual here; the stunning story is laid on top of an irresistible groove, and even in a song about bingo, Amigo the Devil finds a way to draw the listener even deeper into the journey of Born Against.
And the more you allow yourself to enter that world, the more you’ll see Kiranos is not only navigating the light and darkness of life, but he’s striving to unearth the beautiful freedom that exists in the space between and offer it to those who have ears to hear.