By Dog Almighty
Dog Almighty eponymous debut is a heavy rock/metal album that's slightly more considered than most examples of the genre. The Norwegian quartet cram in experimental flourishes, unusual vocals and, in particular, inventive drumbeats, to come up with a heavy album that doesn't set out solely to make your ears bleed.
Opening track 'It Doesn't Hurt' is a song packed with dramatic highs. Each brooding verse of menacing, tribal-like drumbeats, explodes into a chorus of huge riffs and soaring vocals, before Dog Almighty really go for the throat with a post-chorus sweep of epic-tinged riffs edged with the occasional, grinding chord.
However, 'It Doesn't Hurt' fails to capitalise on much of its potential power due to a backing track that's musically over-loaded and confused. Occasionally, this background fuzz overwhelms the cleaner riffs at the forefront of the song, and it successfully reduces all of the less-defined parts of 'It Doesn't Hurt' to an impenetrable buzz.
This is also an issue with the punkier 'Choke on This.' This song delivers the goods when its comes to punchy verses of spring-heeled drumbeats and scratchy, raw-sounding chords. The choruses are equally energetic, with breakneck punk riffs and snotty, defiant vocals in abundance. However, 'Choke On This's over-complicated background dulls this song's impact. There's the definite sense that 'Choke On This' would sound much nastier and more ferocious, if the background noise was toned down.
Thankfully, Dog Almighty opt for a cleaner, crisper sound for the rest of their debut. Track two, 'Sinner' trims away the background buzz that held their album opener back, and shows just what Dog Almighty are capable of. Here, Dog Almighty strip things down to an inventive, groovy drumbeat, spiked with bursts of pulsing riffs and machine-gun main vocals. It all makes for addictive, twitchy listening.
'Sinner' also boasts some inspired, off-key, yet melodic backing vocals that will fix themselves firmly in your head after the very first listen. While Dog Almighty are unlikely to win you over with their questionable choice of album opener, track two is definitely something worth getting excited about.
This is also the case with 'Already There.' This song is underpinned by a stuttery, buzzy-edged beat that gives it the same infectious energy that made 'Sinner' such a great song. The chorus does fall a little flat though, with its single line repeated over and over, meaning this is one Dog Almighty chorus you won't find yourself singing along to.
'Break' marks another album highlight, with choruses of hoarse, screamed vocals and an underlying, Middle Eastern guitar that's reminiscent of System of a Down, and which suits frontman Sindri's warbly-edged vocals surprisingly well.
The brooding 'Perfect Lie' and the scuzzed-up rock of 'Let It Go' capture Dog Almighty at their heaviest. The verses of 'Perfect Lie' seep menace, and the choruses are equally accomplished, with towering riffs, soaring main vocals and harmonious backing vocals combining in a powerful, sweeping sound.
And things only get heavier, as Dog Almighty blend those dramatic chorus riffs and harmonious backing vocals with tormented main vocals, in a crushing finale.
None of Dog Almighty's debut is metal-by-numbers, but it's only with 'Six' that they really indulge their experimental leanings. The first half is an odd combination of tribal drumbeats and the occasional, wailing chord. However, far from being underwhelming, this severely stripped-down style sets off 'Six's experimental vocals. This includes some eerie, multi-layered wailing that really showcases the vaguely System of a Down-esque timbre of Sindri's voice. The second half takes a more conventional route, introducing plenty of crashing riffs and more straightforward vocals. 'Six' is an always-interesting piece of experimental rock, complete with enough easy hooks to ensure getting your head around its eccentricities is a wholly enjoyable experience.
Things come to a conclusion with the dark, gradual pound of 'Bitter To The Teeth' which culminates in a high of black-hearted, spiralling riffs and howled vocals.
It's a fittingly dramatic conclusion to this accomplished debut which, although it errs on the heavier side of things, always delivers enough stylish flourishes, easy hooks and drama, to perhaps lure in a few people who wouldn't normally listen to music that's quite this heavy. Musically and lyrically interesting, Dog Almighty are definitely worth checking out if you like your music heavy, but not mind-numbingly so.