What’s your first impression when I say Dark Hound? No, this isn’t a trap. And, no, I’m not looking for anything perverted, so fucking stop. For me, Sherlock Holmes comes to mind. I don’t know… creepy dogs and shit? Anyway, with that, I would imagine the band’s music to be dark, brooding, and haunting—with an atmosphere to match. Well, no surprise, everything I thought was wrong. If anything, this Nashville, Tennessee quartet is anything but that. So, what in the fuck is Dark Hound? Though they share drummers with Northern Crown (remember those doomy chumps), Dark Hound ain’t no doom outfit. Instead, Dark Hound play the kinda music bro-tanked simpletons pump iron—and sit at the drinking fountain—to. Take a little Shogun-era Trivium and The Haunted‘s Unseen, mix them with a little Project 86 and thrash-less Throwdown, shove them through a Play-Doh Fun Factory and pray that flimsy piece of plastic that makes smelly, multi-colored clay pasta doesn’t break.
This year’s Dawning is upbeat-as-hell and it rocks-and-metals better than anything your local pop station can pump out. If your local station sucks as bad as mine, this may not mean much. But, even if this brand of metal may be too simple for you, Dawning has come a long ways since the band’s boring, wannabe progressive Dark Hound debut. It wasn’t until 2015’s Oceans that the band decided to ditch those bland progressive elements and focus on a niche that best suits them. And, now with Dawning, they’ve driven it home.
Now, don’t go clicking on the link below and expect some life-changing rocking heavy metal. Dawning follows a simple recipe that involves over-compressed guitar work, headbangable riffs, and loads of sing-along choruses. On the heavy end of the spectrum, you’ll find numbers like opener “The Ashes of Your Worth,” “Carnival of Youth,” “Balancing Act,” and “Thrashgasm.” All, have foot-tapping, head-bobbing chugs, sticky verses, and choruses that are easy to belt out at 90 mph. Vocalist ET Brown uses a mix of clean and gruffy vocals this side of Peter Dolving (ex-The Haunted) and Sully Erna (Godsmack). “Balancing Act” and “Carnival of Youth,” in particular, have a driving rhythm that, matched with Brown’s Erna-like vocal approach in the verses. That doesn’t last long for the latter, as it shifts gears and concludes with a downbeat-driven Mastodon lick.
“Crisis of Hope,” on the other hand, is a melodic bruiser that, like “Jagged Edge,” utilizes the cleans of The Haunted‘s Unseen. It drops and builds, much like “Carnival of Youth,” transitioning midway through to Brown’s in-your-face vocal stylings of Andrew Schwab (Project 86). “Stripped Away” is similar in approach, with Brown falling back on his inner Schwab. Of the melodic numbers on the record, “The Answer” is the most extreme—almost to the point of being a ballad. It also acts as a decent mid-album mood changer and the fucking chorus is addictive as hell. But, of all the songs, my favorite is the closing piece, “Here Lies Truth.” Though Oceans‘ late-’90s Megadethy “Thread” is one of the band’s best, “Here Lies Truth” is right up there. It’s the fullest and longest on the record and the lyrics are some of the best the band has written.
Outside of these tracks, the rest of the songs on the album are either annoying or a bit… regular. “Guilt Tripper” has a killer groove but that gruff in the vocals is what killed it and some of Oceans for me. “Thrown to the Wolves” is a monster but it’s a monster that’s almost forgettable because of its simplicity. And, while I rather enjoy “Thrashgasm,” this odd Annihilator-inspired piece stands out like a sore thumb. On top of that, the compression on the album is sure to cause headaches with repeated listens.
For those looking for a little more depth than simple song structures and rocking grooves, Dawning may not be for you. For those who need a palette cleanser—full of chunky riffs, driving rhythms, and sing-along choruses—you might want to check this out. And, for fans of the Oceans EP, Dawning will not disappoint, as it’s Dark Hound‘s best album to date and the band appears to have found the style and approach that fits them best.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Rampant Struggle Records/Self Release
Websites: darkhound.bandcamp.com | dark-hound.com | facebook.com/darkhoundband
Releases Worldwide: January 19th, 2018