Friday, July 15, 2016

A Little Something Different

I have been requested to write an album review. Something I don't normally do, but I was honoured by the band, so here it is:
Musical Supergroups.

It's a common enough phrase, but the imagery it brings to mind is a varied as the people you ask. To some, it's a recipe for disaster; massive ego fighting for creative control. For others, it's a one album wonder, maybe done for love, perhaps done for money. Whatever the reason for existence, a supergroup is bound to make people sit up and take notice.

Spark some controversy, make some waves.

The latest incarnation of said phrase is here for your listening pleasure, to make you sit up, to take notice, and maybe in the process, stick in your brain. It's Dunsmuir.

The name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like Cream, or Blue Murder does. In point of fact, I'm not even certain, without resorting to Google, who, or what, a Dunsmuir is. A quick online search says it's a city in California. Not exactly a name I associate with musical heavyweights, but that is perhaps about to change, for Dunsmuir packs some heavy firepower. Feast your eyes on these legends:

Neil Fallon of Clutch Fame
Brad Davis of Fu Manchu
Vinny Appice of, well just about every legendary metal band that ever was (Dio, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, the list goes on)
Dave Bone from The Company Band.

Dave is the only member of the band that didn't immediately jump into my mind as being a heavyweight, but after listening to their eponymous debut, he certainly belongs up there with the rest.

The album is a concept piece (another common theme in musical supergroups) about the survivors of a 19th century shipwreck and the various fates that befall each one.

The album starts with "Hung On the Rocks" with clear catchy (not flashy, more meat and potatoes Ramones style) guitar work, backed up smartly by rumbling bass and crisp drumming. Before the vocals kick in, I’m thinking "Love Gun" by Kiss, but then Neil roars into play, just as forceful as he ever was. Clever lyrics abound, a solid sign of intelligence and hints of what's to come.

"And the Devil is content to dance,
The sea begins to boil, Charybdis awaits
Tie myself to the mast"

"Our Only Master" starts off with a snappy drum solo and the speed of the tune reminds you these four guys have their roots in metal. The middle of the song slows it down to Black Sabbath velocity with some haunting chants from Neil before picking up the pace for the end, which arrives in a short 3 minutes 20 odd seconds.

The short frame of the song reminds me this isn't a Clutch album, the longest song barely breaking the 5 minute mark, with most clocking in under 4 minutes. Unusual for a concept album. Judas Priest's Nostradamus broke the 100 minute mark, Queensryche's flawless Operation Mindcrime (really, the concept album which all others will be forever judged) hits the 1 hour mark. The ten songs from Dunsmuir barely surpass the half hour meter.

The rest of the songs move along at a brisk pace. The album will never be confused with speed metal, but only one track, "Church of the Tooth" (coincidentally the longest track here, at 5.47) slows down into sludge rock territory, but Neil's powerful pipes keep things alive and active. The band never gives the feeling of dissolving into a jam session or self-indulgent wankery. The drums move with purpose, with bass keeping the tempo and when the guitar isn't driving the song, it hits solo exploration, safe in the knowledge the rhythm section will carry it through.

The final song "Crawling Chaos" tackles H.P. Lovecraft's themes with aplomb and the lyrical touches only Neil can provide. Sounding like a deranged street preacher (I was going to say manic, but, you know…) he weaves the final tale of the last of the survivors as they descend into madness.

Will Dunsmuir be around for another album? Hard to say, each member has a firmly established career and finding time to write and record another album is always tricky, but where there is a will, there is a way.

As with most things Neil does, the lyrics, vocals and music linger far after the needle his the last groove and I found myself wanting more. So listen up dear readers, find the time, make the change, get in gear and find this album before the crawling chaos consumes us all.