Dunderbeist - Black Arts & Crooked Tails (Indie Recordings)

It's pop-tastic (in a good way)
Release Date: 
10 Feb 2012 - 12:30am

Black Arts & Crooked Tails is Dunderbeist’s debut international release but is actually their fifth release overall. Hailing from Norway this seven man outfit lay on the metal/hard rock riffage as heavily as they lay on the mascara; eg - by the spadeful. La Guerre du Feu (Lord Of The Flames)  (doesn't Guerre mean war? - confused Ed with a French 'O' Level) kick starts the album with a folky acoustic intro that’s sliced across the face by some sharp electric guitars, then the drums drop in and it gets all stompy. Finally the proper fat guitars gatecrash the party and we’re into the belly of the (Dunder) beast. They’ve got two guitarists (Fredrik Ryberg & Ronny Flissundet) and two vocalists (Torgrim Torve & Asmund Snortheim); I don’t know who’s doing what but I’m quite enjoying it so far. Their sound is not dissimilar to Mastodon; although for some reason that I can’t quite fathom, Dunderbeist sound a tad more ‘poppy’. I just don’t know why but there you go...although seeing as the album was mastered by Alan Douches (of Mastodon, Kverletak & Misfits fame) it’s no surprise that there are audio similarities.

There are some quite groovy numbers on here such as Through The Peephole, which brings to my mind traces of Alice in Chains and some lovely drum work on Fear & Loathing courtesy of John Birkeland Hansen. Dunderbeist also have a percussionist by the name of Ole Alexander Lislerud who adds some nice touches with bells and other percussion based instruments. Having two vocalists obviously gives the tunes a different depth and Dunderbeist seem to enjoy stripping the song back to its bare bones before reintroducing a riff to accentuate the ‘grunt’. This structure is also repeated on Winters Past but with birdsong replacing the bells.

Lucifer Eyes has some of the bells and whistling in the quieter sections and you think it’s all over...then suddenly the song comes back at you before fading into The Worst Sentence, another heavy yet pop laden track. I just can’t work out what makes it so? It’s got sharp riffs, tight drums and Kristian Liljan’s bass is quite prominent – I even  enjoyed how the vocal lines flowed over the top of the music. I conclude that you just have to give yourself over to the album and not worry about the pop elements. Perhaps it’s the very clean production that gives Black Arts that overly commercial feel?

Shields Aligned has an orchestral intro and the guitar riffs are there again. And the bass. Which is nice. More Me has a very distinctive ‘Norwegian’ sound with the lead guitars screaming over a sheet of noise while 8 Crows and Counting is possibly the least memorable track on here. It’s still got a big sound though. Last track Hum Hum has a restrained start that builds to that big sound I just mentioned; the arrangements are a delight of great subtlety and the lyrics “Me and you in a big canoe” hung about in my brain for ages, making me chuckle out loud.

I have to admit that once I got past the pop (and possibly my own prejudices) I really got into this album. As a change of pace from some of the more mental stuff I’ve been listening to, I enjoyed it no end, even though it’s still got enough grunt to please a pig.