What Hell Is About
posted on 3/2006 By:
Like early Fear Factory? Like Vulgar Display of Power-era Pantera? Like straightforward American death metal? Surprise! You’ll probably like these. Recent Seasons of Mist signees Dagoba may hail from the recently black-metal-intensive France, but there isn’t a scrap of nihilistic grimness or what have you to be found here. The majority of Dagoba’s second full-length is composed of double-bass-driven beatdowns with melody occasionally spliced into the carnage and despite my general lack of interest in this style, it’s a satisfyingly visceral slab of cyber metal that still manages to keep up the memorability quotient.
If you’re looking for industrial-tinged blasting death a la The Amenta or The Berzerker, you might as well move on; Dagoba’s most obvious influence is the mechanized march of Demanufacture or Soul of a New Machine. That said, What Hell Is About is far beefier and more brutal than anything Fear Factory has ever produced. Vocalist Shawter’s pipes are significantly harsher than Burton Bell’s ever were and the riffage here is less contingent upon industrial clang-bonk-clunk injections than it is upon lockstep downtuned pummelings. Drummer Franky (I sometimes wonder why the hell bands only provide their members’ first names) provides the requisite precision rhythms and frequent kick drum flourishes with aplomb, reducing the need for much in the way of digital sampling. The Tue Madsen production also does wonders for the band’s sound, adding a whole additional layer of gritty-but-crystalline intensity atop the riffs. It’s nice to hear Madsen’s work outside of a metalcore context for once; he’s clearly one of the more expert clean-production men in the business and hopefully he’ll continue to branch out from the nonstop German ‘core bands.
Back to Dagoba, though. Though the majority of the tracks on What Hell Is About focus on the crushing robo-riffs (“Die Tomorrow,” “The Fall of Men,” “The Apostle of Your Last War,” etc.), the band is close enough to their roots that they don’t neglect the dreaded ‘obligatory clean vocal song’ tendency. And, for once, they aren’t that bad at it. Shawter is a versatile singer, with a pretty solid Bell clean vox imitation as well as a hoarse semi-melodic bellow that reminds me of Gojira’s Joe Duplantier, of all people. He uses both tastefully on and off throughout the record (while handling the programming/synths, no less), most obviously on “Cancer.” Though the track edges into vaguely commercial territory, the guitars don’t abandon their death metal edge and there’s not a hit of annoying pop saccharine to be found. The vibe is actually somewhere along the lines of a cyborg version of countrymen Old Dead Tree.
All in all, What Hell Is About is another quality offering from the ever-reliable Seasons of Mist label. Granted, Dagoba isn’t exactly shattering boundary after boundary here, but it’s nice to see a band muscling up their influences rather than stripping them down. Good show and solid release by these fellows; they’ve displayed expertise on their sophomore album and have plenty of potential to dip into for their third.
Register to post comments.