Considering their impressive all star line-up, the debut self-titled LP from Dunsmuir seemed to fly under the radar rather curiously. The freshly minted rock project featuring Dave Bone (The Company Band), Brad Davis (Fu Manchu), Vinnie Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Heaven & Hell) and none other than legendary Clutch frontman Neil Fallon released a consistently solid debut album worthy of your attention. Minus bells, whistles or any huge surprises, Dunsmuir delivers loads of turbo-charged fun and groovy hard rock songs, executed with the professionalism and no fuss execution of experienced pros in the zone. Generally I’m wary of super-groups, due to the propensity to disappoint and fall flat in the wake of high expectations. Already in 2016, fussed over bands Gone is Gone and Giraffe Tongue Orchestra released mostly underwhelming efforts with much more hype attached. Fortunately Dunsmuir delivered the goods, playing to their strengths and having a shit ton of fun doing so.
Wisely Dunsmuir pared this sucker down to the bare essentials, ripping through a compact, high-energy collection of punchy tunes with much of the material sounding like a not too distant cousin to modern day Clutch and to a similar extent, Fallon and Bone’s The Company Band project. Considering Clutch is still firing on all cylinders, this could be seen as a disappointment, however, the outside influences and songwriting quirks separate Dunsmuir from the interrelated pack. Tasty guitar licks and a boisterous and highly infectious chorus lifts the album off to a bright start on “Hung on the Rocks,” before the tempo is lifted considerably on the upbeat and very Clutch-esque drive of “Our Only Master.” Meanwhile, “The Bats (Are Hungry Tonight)” rocks a darker, hard hitting groove to fun effect.
Following a strong beginning, the album hits a couple of less remarkable moments but it rarely slows the rocking momentum. Dunsmuir mostly operate at a boisterous mid-paced to occasionally faster groove. However, one of the album highlights showcases a heavier, Sabbath-inspired doomy flair and it’s a real treat. “Church of the Tooth” is a monstrous tune built on a raucous foundation of thick, bluesy doom groove and Southern swagger, backed by another excellent vocal performance from Fallon. Should the band return for a second effort, more of this doomier side would be most welcome. Boasting a touch more aggression and adventurous songwriting, the second half of the album is a grower that rewards repeat plays, rounding out a well-balanced album. Closer “Crawling Chaos” is not the album’s best or most immediate song, but its gritty delivery and edgy rhythms ensure the album doesn’t go out with a whimper.
The experienced rhythm section locks down some tight grooves, keeping things straightforward and expressive, driving the songs in a no-frills fashion compared to the more intricate jazzy shuffle of Jean-Paul Gaster and Dan Maines. But thankfully Appice knows his way around the kit, injecting his own style and stamping his class while holding down a fat bottom end rumble with Davis. Bone’s guitar work is solid throughout, blending styles into a package of groovy, riff driven delights, incorporating elements of classic rock, doom, trad metal, stoner and blues-infused heavy rock. Fallon’s performance is typically top notch, reinforcing his status as one of rock music’s most charismatic and unique vocalists. He has loads of fun putting his zany lyrical powers to work around the supernatural and nautically inspired album concept, relating to the survivors of a 19th-century shipwreck.
Clutch comparisons are inevitable, however, Dunsmuir bring enough dark and quirky elements and slick hooks to make their own solid impression. Though Dunsmuir doesn’t quite hit the highs of Earth Rocker or Psychic Warfare, it’s a highly enjoyable album of heavy, nautical-themed hard rock goodness.
Tracks to Check Out: “Hung on the Rocks,” “Church of the Tooth,” and “Our Only Master”