Duel – In Carne Persona Review

Do you ever surprise yourself by realizing you don’t actually like something you thought you did? Or maybe you’ve realized you actually do like something you thought you didn’t? I experienced the former by thinking I liked melodeath. I even listed it as one of my go-to genres when I applied to write here. But I soon noticed that I never reach for melodeath promos, and no records of the style ever compete for my year-end list. It dawned on me that I’d tricked myself into thinking I liked the genre because I love Amon Amarth. Go ahead and boo, all ye Insomnium Gatherum fans, I’m just telling it like it is. I’ve also experienced the inverse by spending most of my metal life thinking I don’t like stoner metal. But every time I listen to it, I find myself enthralled by the grooves and the cool-kid swagger. I’ve already had some luck with one recent stoner-ish foray, so when I found the newest Duel left unclaimed by my colleagues, I thought I’d give it a go. Let’s see if I can keep the hits a-comin’.

Hailing from Austin, Texas, Duel have spent their relatively short lifespan building a strong body of work in the stoner/doom metal/rock style. In Carne Persona is the band’s fourth full-length album since 2016 and follows in the footsteps of 2019’s strong effort, Valley of Shadows. Take a whiff of Duel‘s sound, and you’ll detect notes of pure doom in the tradition of Sabbath mixed with the melodic sensibilities of Thin Lizzy and the creepy, doomy rock of Danzig. The resulting odor is a pleasing one and makes for some seriously infectious music, starting right out of the gate with opener “Children of the Fire.” After a brief occult intro, vintage twin-guitar harmonies start the song in earnest, paving the way for an early, soulful solo. All of this sets the stage for the entrance of one of Duel‘s greatest assets: the gritty croon of Tom Frank. The song builds and builds until the stellar chorus comes along about midway through, and all the while, Frank and fellow guitarist Derek Halfmann absolutely pepper the song with cool licks and solos. The track hasn’t left my head for weeks.

And the rest of album follows suit. “Anchor” is a hard-rocking number that brings some Foo Fighters catchiness to the table, while “Behind the Sound” grows steadily into a massive wall of fuzz in the second half. A doomy riff that would please Iommi himself gets summoned on the intro to “Wave of Your Hand,” a fantastic track that rides a wave of hard rock glory, and while the faster numbers are great, the moodier ones are just as strong. “Dead Eyes” uses psychedelic guitar leads and bluesy riffs to augur straight into your brain to deliver its irresistible payload, and—speaking of psychedelia—”The Veil” adds a bit of The Doors weirdness to the mix. But “Blood on the Claw” provides perhaps the best demonstration of Duel‘s skills, blending just about every element mentioned above into one epic stoner metal finale.

The production earns some kudos here too, allowing the performances to fully embody the band’s vision. This is music that’s supposed to sound like it came straight from the 70s, and it absolutely does. I can’t heap enough accolades on the guitar work from Frank and Halfmann. The riffs are huge, and the leads engrossing, the latter taking on the character of another vocalist at times. Frank’s timeless voice grants the music genuine 70s credibility, and he handles the subdued and the heavier sections equally well. I think you should carve out 38 minutes to listen to this in its entirety, but “Children of the Fire,” “Anchor,” “Behind the Sound,” “Wave of Your Hand,” and “Blood on the Claw” are excellent.

If you’ve ever played Brütal Legend, you might remember Jack Black’s character posing the question, “Ever feel like you were born in the wrong time – like you should have been born earlier, when the music was… real?” When a roadie replies, “Like the seventies?” Eddie answers, “No. Earlier… like the early seventies.” I have a feeling that Eddie might really like Duel. On In Carne Persona, they prove that music doesn’t have to be fast, extreme, or complicated—or even fall squarely under the ‘metal’ tag—in order to be heavy. This is simply one of the coolest records I’ve heard all year, and it reinforces the notion that I need more stoner jams in my life.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds Records
Websites: duel3.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dueltexas
Releases Worldwide: October 1st, 2021

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