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mercoledì 15 ottobre 2014

Godhunter - City of Dust

#FOR FANS OF: Doom/Sludge
This work is highly political, reminiscent of the American protest folk music of the 1960s, such as Bob Dylan and Country Joe and the Fish. The subject matter of "City of Dust" focuses not on general social issues, but rather sharply on issues in the state of Arizona (primarily Tucson), which leads to the conclusion that this is where these guys are from--otherwise, why would they care, unless of course these issues they write about are things which have affected them profoundly and directly? My major complaint with most records in this genre is that they usually omit lyric sheets, leaving it up for the listener to try to and decode the message. I was most impressed in that not only did Godhunter include lyric sheets, but they've provided footnotes as well, that clearly point to the circumstances of inspiration for each piece, and what it's about. Collectively, the footnotes alone add up to a half a page just by themselves. This is a very politically and ecologically aware piece, which to my experience, is not very common subject matter for metal. As I alluded to in my opening, this kind of informed protest has traditionally been the realm of folk music. The included footnotes include several books the listener is recommend to read, to help develop a better understanding of the issues the songs on this release address. Here are the recommendations: "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" - CHRIS HEDGES; "Rats in the Walls" - HP LOVECRAFT (short story--also the title of the second song here); "Cadillac Desert" - MARC REISNER; "Hope Dies Last" - STUDS TERKEL; "Blood Orchid" - CHARLES BOWDEN; and "La Calle" - LYDIA R. OTERO. I can see why metal would provide a more emphatic form of protest than acoustic folk. Subtlety this days tends to get lost in the noise of all the TV soundbites and the 24/7/365 news cycle that we’re all immersed in today, that didn't exist in the 1960s. Information traveled a lot slower then, so people responded pretty well to, and actually understood wry sarcasm in music. Less so these days: besides, metal has always been the best musical medium for expressing frustration and anger at things, and this guys have got that going in spades. No posing here: No Venom-like pseudo-glam fake Satanism is used here for the sake of getting publicity. These guys are REAL: they are sincere and committed to their message, and deathly serious about what they have to say. Now enough on the inspiration and on to the music itself (and there's a lot more to be found in the references on the lyric sheets. Make sure that you have them in hand when listening to this). Godhunter gives us a doomy sludge sound worthy of 'Black Sabbath's Volume 4' with a bit of 'Down II' tossed in, a sprinkling of Sleep, and a vocal style which is a cross between that of the lead vocalist of Texas Hippie Coalition and Phil Anselmo. There are 8 tracks on "City of Dust" (subtitled "A Conversation Between Hope and Despair"): (1) "Despite All"; (2) "Rats in the Walls"; (3) "Brushfires"; (4) "Snake Oil Dealers"; (5) "Shooting Down the Sun"; (6) "Palace of Thorn" (yes, that's not a typo - it says "Thorn"--singular--sans "s"--on the lyric sheet); (7) "City of Dust" (the title track), and closing with (8) "Plague Widow". This is real shit these guys are writing about: no dragons, no knights, no cosmic catastrophes, but real-life, close to home issues that this band really cares about. And these are things that they want their listeners to care about, as well. A couple of the songs include spoken introductions. The album opens (in "Despite All") with an excerpt from a speech given by Chris Hedges under foreboding synth swells (see the reference to his book in the recommended reading list cited earlier in this review): "We live now in a nation where doctors destroy health; lawyers destroy justice; universities destroy knowledge; government destroys freedom; press destroys information; religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy." Track 3, "Brushfires" starts with a speech on civil disobedience Howard Zinn gave in 1971 against the Vietnam War: "Learn to disobey. So you police and you FBI, if you want to arrest people who are violating the law, then you shouldn't be here--you should be in Washington! You should go there immediately: and arrest the President and his advisors, on the charge of disturbing the peace of the world." Of note, the pace changes with the fifth track, "Shooting Down the Sun", which is a dark, deeply emotive and soulful acoustic piece with great raw, melodic vocals. It’s very similar in feeling to Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" or "Changes", yet imagine Joe Cocker as a metal vocalist in place of Ozzy Osbourne. In short, if you like a mix of doom and groove metal, these guys will pull you right in, and not let you go. But after you’ve given it a few spins just absorbing the feel and the vibe, sit down with the lyric sheet, and explore the deeper meaning of the songs on "City of Dust.” You'll be glad you did. This is true "Metal with Meaning"--and that's not necessarily a bad thing, at least once in a while. (Bob Szekely)

(The Compound/Battleground Records - 2014)
Score: 90