Sunday, 6 January 2013

Dryasdust - ST Demo (album review)

Dryasdust are a Finnish rock band that recalls many of the moodier moments of classic rock artists from the late 60s and 70s.  They play heavy riffs with straight forward song structure and go for an overall darker sound.  It's not a lonely 'I am in a deep pit of despair, I'm all alone and there's no way out' kind of darkness, it's more of a social 'hey, you want to hear something creepy?' kind of darkness.  Not cartoonishly dark, not depressingly dark, but soberingly dark, like a bucket of ice cold reality in the face, "Oh yeah, now I remember.  There's a lot of dirt under the surface."  Or it's like a group of friends in the woods and one of the cheerful girls says, "it's so beautiful here".  Then the dark and cynical one says, "Somewhere, there's a dead hooker in these woods."  Sobering,  harsh reality.  That is, reality filtered through a dark lens.

Of course, there's beauty in darkness and Dryasdust understand this.  The drums pound, the guitar slashes, the bass whips and the backing vocals float in like voices from the 'other side', all the while maintaining a hauntingly catchy and singular vision with a strong group identity.  Dryasdust as a band name is quite interesting as well and warrants a little conversation.  Dryas is a kind of plant (the white flowers on the album cover above) from wikipedia:
 "Dryas is a genus of perennial cushion-forming evergreen dwarf shrubs in the family Rosaceaenative to the arctic and alpine regions of Europe, Asia and North America".  
Dryas (oak) was also the name of several characters in Greek mythology, including one killed by his own father Lycurgus (killed by lysergic?).  The Dryas were climatic periods of the earth characterized by an ice age during the Younger Dryas.  It is also the genus of butterfly seen on the inset of the album cover art below, about to be eaten by a fish no less.  And the whole name proper is a three word phrase Dry As Dust, which one might associate with a corpse, if one were so inclined to see things through a dark lens.  You go from beauty to myth to death in any order you please and you come out with the formula that this band has concocted for a very memorable debut EP.

The 5 song demo opens with a kick in the ass.  "Cold Sweat" kicks things off in fairly cheerful fashion with uptempo drums and a relatively bright and heavy riff.  Before long however the power trio darkens the affair with a second main riff that takes over the rest of the song like a storm cloud at a picnic.  This darker vision is unrelenting for the rest of the record and makes for a perfect transition to low key "Deep Waters" which in turn transitions perfectly into the all-nite diner mood setter "Losing Hold".  Owlish backing vocals and busy yet understated drumming characterize the moody "Deep Waters"

Closing track "Evil Hearted" is the summation of Dryasdust's sound.  Heavy, funky, catchy and dark with very memorable percussion.  It's rare for the percussion to provide the hook in a song, but that's what you get here.  Very memorable and intense.  The song ends with a snippet of the chilling speech Jim Jones delivered to his 'congregation' as he convinced them to kill themselves.  If you ever hear the full audio it's incredibly disturbing and maybe the darkest thing I've ever heard.  It suits Dryasdust quite well and is a strong way to close out the album, leaving the listener stunned and dumbfounded.

The album cover art is a perfect visual representation of what the band is all about.  A beautiful lady floating spread eagle on a pond.  But is she dead?  Just below the surface fish attack insects.  Again, there's that theme of harsh reality just below the surface.  Akira Kurosawa once said that the job of the artist is to not look away (I believe I'm paraphrasing here) and that's just what Dryasdust refuse to do.  They dig beneath the surface like curious dogs and sometimes unearth the bones of ghosts, then show everybody what they found.  This is the artist's imperative.  The band refuses to look away, peering deeply into the dark areas beneath the beautifully manicured hedgerows, daring the listener to do the same.

Highlights include: "Deep Waters" and "Cold Sweat"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 20:47

From: Finland

Genre: Rock, Stoner

Reminds me of: Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, Year of the Goat

Release Date: October 1, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Sundown at the cabin / back porch, an uninvited visitor listening in just past the edges of peripheral vision

Better Reviews
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Soda Shop
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Stoner Hive

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