[4th November 2013]
01. Hell Hole
02. 13 Bastards
08. She Bites
It doesn’t take long to realise that Black Dogs are angry. Very angry indeed. That message is delivered loud and clear by the first four bars of debut album Grief. By the time the album ends, its almost a miracle that the band haven’t simply burst into flames, such is the intensity of their rage.
When I caught the band’s last London show, I described their sound as “Will Haven with a vitamin D deficiency”, hailing as they do from gloomy Grimsby rather than sun-kissed Sacramento. That description still holds water; Grief displays a brutal combination of hardcore punk energy and sludge-metal menace, with just a touch or two of post-metal bleakness as some form of momentary respite.
This last element shines through most clearly in the instrumental title track, but it is telling that it lasts for less than two minutes before plunging the listener back into the maelstrom. Other than this track, there’s no filler on the album, so what you get are nine raging, pit-ready tracks.
There’s also something almost intangiby British in their sound, which helps them to stand apart from the legions of Hatebreed clones that usually corner the market in frustrated fury. This is possibly due to the hardcore elements of Black Dogs’ sound being weighted more towards punk than metal.
Like Doberman Pinschers straining at the leash, Black Dogs are lean and sinuous. Their burly, muscular riffs are almost entirely devoid of any fat in the form of overdubs, backing tracks or solos. Opening cut “Hellhole” even dispenses with the fripperies of an introduction, hitting the ground at full tilt. All that is left is plenty of low-end grunt and a procession of pleasingly lip-curling grooves – which is all you need, really. The grooves are simple without being simplistic, and this approach can be devastatingly effective.
This ruthless efficiency even extends as far as the song titles, with just one if the ten being more than three syllables long. Vocalist Gollo is clearly not one to suffer fools gladly, but his lyrical themes suggest he spends most of his time neck deep in them. He vents his considerable spleen at “Traitors“, “Savages” and “13 Bastards” over the course of the album.
Grief packs its ten songs into a run-time just over twenty five minutes. It pounces, rips your face off and quickly disappears again into the night. This is probably for the best, as had it been longer it might have started to overstay its welcome.
Nevertheless, as it stands, Grief is one hell of an opening statement from Black Dogs. It’s a vitriolic catharsis from the frustrations of everyday life. If you’ve had a bad day in the office or classroom, then listening to it is going to be a most satisfying way to blow off some steam.