Album Review: Black Dogs – Grief

Just when you thought you were over groove-laden hardcore, something sounding this fresh and vital reels you right back in again. For every posturing fashion label masquerading as a band, there’s a band like Black Dogs, whose sheer aggression and unrelenting malevolence goes straight for the jugular and never loosens its grip once throughout the duration of their debut record ’Grief’. While it may not win top marks for originality – the quartet encroach upon well-trodden territory, drawing influence from the likes of (early) Your Demise, Last Witness, While She Sleeps and Hatebreed – the way in which Black Dogs breathe new life into tired hardcore clichés makes this a very enjoyable listen, and one that is sure to cause Black Dogs’ stock rise sharply.

Opener ‘Hellhole’ (surely a paean to whichever northern town they came from…) sees Black Dogs initiate their vice-like grip from the off, the vocals of “Gollo” seething with malice over snarling riffs, before settling into a viscous, sumptuous groove. Proceedings continue in a similarly venomous vein, with ’13 Bastards’ and ’’Krokodil’ obstreperously causing aural GBH with their punishing rhythms and Gollo’s vicious bark. They even manage to get away with a few “BLEH"s, that vocal yip that is the hallmark of every bad mosh band – no time to roll your eyes in disdain when you’re having this much fun.

As exhilarating as this record can be in parts, a rather oppressive production job means a sense of monotony does set in. It’s quite clear from this evidence that Black Dogs can make a fine racket in the live arena, and though the album attempts to encapsulate their raw and intense live performance, the polished representation of their sound means the depraved beast at the heart of Black Dogs has been muzzled. One can imagine a song like ‘She Bites’ being unapologetically filthy at one’s local dive venue, but on record, the riffs sound a little machinated and flat. While the instrumentation is solid throughout this record, it’s rather unspectacular and lacking in nuance – undoubtedly they are a talented set of musicians, but little technical ability is required in flat-out brutality, hence little scope is given to display any dazzling skills that may lay dormant in their arsenal.

Closer ‘Leeches’ finishes proceedings just as impressively as they started, an almighty breakdown seeing us out. While this may not be without its issues, it remains a formidable debut, one which should see the buzz surrounding the Northerners increase dramatically, particularly around the younger element first discovering hardcore. The important thing in this genre is to be able to do the basics well, and to not only be laying solid groundwork but also adding new vibrancy to familiar blueprints on their first full-length means Black Dogs have built the foundations for a very bright future indeed ahead of them. Catch these guys while they’re still playing places with the faint smell of wee that costs less than a tenner to get into – I know I will be.


‘Grief’ by Black Dogs is out now on Dstry Evrythng.

Black Dogs links: Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp

Words by Ollie Connors (@olliexcore)


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