By Rob Hughes
My favourite music has two qualities: it is weird and it is cool. It’s not quite enough just being one or the other. The Residents are weird, but they’re kind of obvious about it, don’t you think? Conversely, Motörhead are untouchably cool, but they’re so reliable—you know what to expect when the new Motörhead album arrives. The weirdest thing about Motörhead is how Lemmy has survived all these years.
Dog Shredder, a trio from just over the line in Bellingham, Washington, are the ideal blend of weird and cool. Brass Tactics, their new EP, is a 15-minute burst of chaos and power that transcends what we’d consider “technical metal” and makes a beeline towards the avant-garde. Imagine Ruins (Japan) blasting through a medley of reversed Mastodon riffs, or Lightning Bolt jamming with Atheist. The first two tracks are all blazing guitars and cluster-bomb drums, peppered with multiple WTF moments and mangled rhythms within the instrumental barrage. The sparse vocals are unexpectedly melodic, but are mixed way back and distorted lest you get too comfortable. The third and last track surprises us with a macabre sort of ballad, an organ-led slow dance of the damned to end this brief entertainment. Weird.
After repeated listens, though, the initial disorientation lifts a bit, and the songs’ inner logic and catchiness become evident. Patterns emerge, and moments of rehearsal-room genius float to the surface. The churning end section of “Battle Toad” delivers some serious heaviness, yet it remains defiantly off-kilter. The impossibly manic “Battle Snake” somehow manages to make room for a soaring, almost hymn-like vocal line. Cool.
Such craziness is probably best experienced in small doses (or live—I’m sure they destroy on stage). A full length of this stuff might make me throw up my hands and reach for Music For Airports. I gather that some of Dog Shredder’s previously released material has a different dynamic, which might help flesh out a long player if they’ve got one in the works. Until the band issue a bigger statement, this brief, joyous excursion into total derangement will give you plenty to gnaw on.
Dog Shredder play the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver, May 25
(Good To Die Records)