posted on 11/2011 By:
Norway’s Lonely Kamel is clearly on a mission to play against type, eager to prove with this, the band’s third album, that if Americans can ply the frost-bittenest of black metal from some of the sun-shiningest of locales, then by Odin, so too can Scandinavians channel the desert and stoner rock of southern California and the American Southwest up in the company of reindeer and fjords. The unfortunate thing for Lonely Kamel is that it is nearly impossible to avoid comparing Dust Devil to Graveyard’s Hisingen Blues, against which unimpeachable bastion of Righteous Fucking Jams these Norwegians were always destined to fall short of their neighbors to the east.
However, whereas Graveyard mines the sources of late 60s/early 70s rock and proto-metal directly, Lonely Kamel’s style is more in the tradition of stoner rock, meaning that it is already an emulation of an emulation, the 2010s’ version of the 90s’ version of the 70s. This isn’t automatically a fatal flaw, but it does mean that it takes that much more heart to pull off the style convincingly, at which task Lonely Kamel falls short frustratingly often. Still, if Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Fu Manchu, Clutch, Monster Magnet et al. get you all high and sanctified, then Dust Devil should slip on every bit as comfortably as your favorite corduroy bellbottoms (or is that your favorite oversized flannel?).
Album opener “Grim Reefer” in many ways provides the codex for understanding the entire album. The first few minutes are a glorious taunt, all massively laid-back blues licks and some smoky riff doubling from singer Thomas Brenna, whose verse tone paints a picture of an improbably-straight Dave Wyndorf fronting Zeppelin’s first record. About halfway into the tune’s six minutes, though, the band makes with the quickness, jumping up into a QOTSA boogie jam that ticks all the right genre boxes but doesn’t quite satisfy. The song eventually traipses back down onto its original bluesy trail, fading out with pleasantly affected group vocals redoubling the clean guitar lick over lazy handclaps. In all, the song suggests that Lonely Kamel is more interesting during its bluesy 70s sojourns than in contemporary stoner rock mode. Apart from the first two and last two songs of the record, though, the band leans much more heavily on sun-baked asphalt as far as the bleary horizon instead of long-haired burnouts pissing on hippies.
The guitars and bass bluster around with a pleasantly fuzzed-out crunch, while the drumming does very little to deviate from a perfunctory, nearly motorik groove. (After all, what was the heyday of stoner rock if not a distinctly American, smoked-out manifest-destiny-inflected version of Krautrock’s smooth European modernism?) Thus, on the album’s weakest moments, tone is all the band has got going for it, as on the repetitive and unimaginative “Rotten Seed,” or the hopelessly milquetoast attempt at a doomy epic in “Seventh Son.” Of course, a laid-back attitude is in many ways a prerequisite for conjuring the stoned in the desert aesthetic, but Lonely Kamel ends up sounding damned lethargic where a bit of spring in the step would work wonders (“Roadtrip with Lucifer,” “Ragnarokr”), although the distempered ranting near the end of “The Prophet” functions effectively to sell the song’s deep and doomed groove. Still, the less said about the clunky lyrics the better (whether they’re aiming for leering sexuality or winking, occult menace), apart from this wincer that opens “Hard to Please”: “Hot dog, baby, won’t you turn on the lights?”
Don’t call me ‘hot dog’, Lonely Kamel, and until you shape up a bit, I’d rather keep the lights out. The better to hide our shame.
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