Dunbarrow II by Dunbarrow
Ah, some good ‘ol fashioned occult rock. Or as some would call it, doom. Or perhaps more eloquently, haunted folk blues. Or better yet, simply, true and pure, rock and roll. Whichever one of Lucifer’s chords Dunbarrow strikes within you, there’s no denying that it rocks. Coming back for a fresh sequel to their self titled debut LP via our buddies at RidingEasy Records, Dunbarrow have continued on their evil journey through the witches woods full of classic metal noises and werewolf howls. Rest assured, this is not a jaded horror sequel, rather this is a classic one. It doesn’t necessarily play like Evil Dead II, but it sure sounds like a cassette tape found in the cellar of a possessed cabin in the middle of the woods, in the highest regards possible.
The fact that reverting to analog sounding recordings and clean channels, with a downbeat devilish blues attitude can feel refreshing is definitely an interesting feeling running through this record like a tormented spirit twisting through the trees. Dunbarrow channel their signature downbeat, haunted, Sabbathian sound much like on their first record, only this time around, and as per usual, the sequel sheds a little more blood. Immediately upon hearing the eerie opening riff and demon spawning power chord off the first trick, On Your Trail, I could tell were in tighter, bolder, and dare I say heavier & more sinister offering this time around. The Norwegian warlocks lay down a plethora of hypnotic and groovy 70’s style doom metal with their subdue style vocal delivery supplying poetic, philosophic, and grim lyrics on top of it. I do have to admit that the first time or 3 I listened to Dunbarrow, the vocals did turn me off a little bit. I felt they were a little TOO subdue, lacking emotion and full delivery of the weight of the lyrics. It felt as though the phenomenal lyrical content was being undersold by the attitude of the vocalist Espen Andersen. BUT NOW, once I became accustomed to the band and their vocals, they hit me in a totally different way. Especially on Dunbarrow II, these tunes feel very folky, in a way that a possessed sooth sayer is spewing out haunted fairy tales by a satanic bonfire on a chilly autumn evening in the woods… and how does it get much better than that? This record really made me GET the vocals, along with the rest of the band playing their devil’s music, PERFECTLY captures the vibe of the band. This record, as well as their debut, undoubtedly create and atmosphere and a headspace unique to their own; and that is a special achievement in terms of modern day (doom) rock record. Or any record, for that matter. Their ability to have each song instantly recognizable and having established such a signature sound only two official albums into their career, is beyond impressive. And they sound just like the could easily fit on a bill with Sabbath back in 1970. Or better yet, spawning their own cult worship rock in the forests of Norway in 1970. Either way is fine.
But, as I mentioned before, Dunbarrow’s music gives off more of a 1770’s vibe rather than 1970’s; as it transports the listener back to when tales of folklore and witchcraft were being dramatized among the forests, and the album plays out as such. The often catchy, poetic, and meaningful lyrics (which are sometimes void in heavy/evil/rock/metal music all together) are presented in a fair old-fashioned, story-telling, almost ballad type of way; feeding into the story of the record itself and the band’s mythology. All in all, it results in a very authentic sounding occult rock record, not just a cauldron’s brew of rehashed inspiration. Dunbarrow are the real deal.
In addition to the hypnotic and haunting atmosphere and oracle-esque spellbound lyricism and narrative, Dunbarrow are near flawless in the bare-bones instrumentation and overall sound of the record. I don’t know about you, when I hear if a vintage doom rock/metal band, my mind immediately goes towards distortion, fuzz, warped vocals, and gloom… Dunbarrow have none of these qualities. Well, maybe a little gloom, but that’s about it. Their riffs are played cleaner than the blood of the innocent. There is no droning or distorted guitar explosions to be found here, rather a clean and vintage sound that really allows their playing abilities to shine through the darkness. Not to mention a beautifully haunting acoustic guitar instrumental track, too. Wether the riffs be a bouncy, melodic, blues-groove found on songs such as The Demon Within; or Lucifer-summoning power chord stomps on songs like the opening single On Your Trail… Dunbarrow blaze a trail paved with riffs to Sabbathian territory and solos as haunting as the laughter of witches themselves. Speaking of, there is a sadistic laugh on Witches of the Woods Pt. II that very well may be my favorite moment on a record this year.
Thankfully, the rhythm section far from falls short, as the bass is ever present and doesn’t get lost behind the guitar centered hymns and strange and front centered vocal delivery. This bass lingers, creeps, and echoes in the background of all songs just like a werewolf stalking the forests. You might not notice it right away, but its there, and it’s deadly. Fittingly enough, the song The Wolf is a percussion heavy lycanthropy inducer with no shortage of menacing bass and devastating percussion; complete with grooves all under the same full moon. The drums are a perfect balance of heavy, metal - style drums and a blues rock groove throughout the whole record; and they make themselves known. Perhaps one of the keys to their sound is the fact that vocalist Andersen is also the sound engineer, who also did the debut, allowing this one to be a more focused and refined experience. Along with the rest of the band playing tighter than ever as they are not hiding behind any distortion or effects pedals, Dunbarrow come together like a bunch of sorcerers with each instrument casting its spell upon the listener. The result produces hypnotic and possessing doom rock that is worth listening to if you are even the slightest Sabbath fan. Big props to these dudes. Here’s to patiently awaiting Dunbarrow III.
Gym Rating: 3/5
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