Dark Hound – Dawning (Rampant Struggle Records)Monday, 22nd January 2018
Music City, USA – better known as Nashville, Tennessee – carries cache with the country music fans of the world, but isn’t well-known for spawning much in the metal realm. Metal Blade thrash band Intruder gained some attention for the area during the 1980’s and early 90’s (seek out Psycho Savant for a killer exercise in some advanced thrash), but there really hasn’t been a slew of acts pouring forth. It’s special when you get to hear a quartet like Dark Hound aiming to bring some potent, face-melting metal from TN to the masses. Active since 2009, Dawning is the quartet’s second full-length, following their debut self-titled album in 2014 and an Oceans EP a year later – and after a few passes these eleven cuts could gather a decent buzz for those who love groove-oriented heaviness that straddles the doom, power/thrash and straight-ahead metal lines.
What was immediately noticeable about Dark Hound is this lower end raunchiness to the bass and guitar tones that has a Pantera meets latter day Testament angle, the type of sound that makes hairs tingle on edge as “Carnival of Youth” – while at the next moment Evan Hensley and Preston Walls can throw up this catchy Maiden-esque refrain as evidenced in the follow up “The Answer”. The rhythm section often mixes up blast beat sections against the power riffs for dynamic efficiency, before crushing in rock solid mid-tempo groove mechanics to make “Crisis of Hope” a mid-album favorite. It’s safe to say the early 1990’s meant a lot to Dark Hound, that period when Megadeth attained commercial acceptance – and yet there are some modern influences like Arch Enemy when it comes to grace and finesse.
A separator for Dark Hound from other bands of this ilk is the alternative, melodic nature to bassist ET Brown’s vocals. He will never be mistaken for the Dickinson/Dio/Halford-type of delivery, his lower register propensity coming from more of a 90’s alternative perspective – in fact Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction if thrown into a heavier direction is the best comparison to make for his forceful and engaging phrasing during “The Ashes of Your Worth” and bouncy “Stripped Away”. It’s not a deal-breaker for this scribe personally – but could see some people desiring a more in the pocket front person to match the diverse and enticing musical compositions. Dawning contains 50 minutes of semi-progressive heavy metal, with an emphasis on grooves, hooks, and diversity. It may not grab instantaneous attention, but Dark Hound are the type of band that will sneak into your playlist because of their seamless genre-blending, not irritate it.