Nov 082010

My experience with one-man bands — the subgenre I’ve seen referred to (pretty loosely) as “bedroom djent” — is damned narrow. About a week ago, it was limited to a universe of one: Cloudkicker. I had ignored some positive references to Cloudkicker on other metal blogs because I just stupidly assumed it wouldn’t be my thing. Then my NCS co-founder IntoTheDarkness insisted I listen to Cloudkicker and I relented. Damned good thing I did, because (as I wrote here) I thought Cloudkicker’s music was excellent.

Then I got this further e-mail from IntoTheDarkness: “ok so i know how much i raved about cloudkicker but i just found someone who outdoes him. and his name is dan dankmeyer. FUCKING AMAZING. HOLY SHIT. I can’t rly describe how good he is. just check him out.” As you can see, ITD doesn’t believe in capitalization, except for emphasis.

IntoTheDarkness and I don’t always see eye to eye, but I always check out the music he recommends (and that goes for the other co-founder of this site, Alexis). So I checked out Dan Dankmeyer, denizen of Frederick, Maryland, despite having read a mixed review of his latest release by Niek on one of my favorite places for discovering new metal, Death Metal Baboon (though he did give it a 7.5 out of 10 rating).

And once again, I’m glad I listened to ITD, because I’m diggin’ the shit out of Mr. Dankmeyer’s latest album, X, despite the fact that it omits the kind of larynx-shredding vocals I usually enjoy. If I had to classify the style, it would be guitar-driven Northern European instrumental melodic death metal, with a dash of prog thrown in for good measure. Whatever you call it, it’s damned good — and it’s free.  (more after the jump, including a couple songs to hear . . .)

The first time I listened to X, I had it playing on my iPod as background music while working out at a gym (I would say I was pumping iron, but these days my gym visits have become so infrequent that it feels like the iron is pumping me). I just wanted to get an overall feel for the music before listening again more carefully. But I found myself stopping and paying closer attention as the music streamed, or involuntarily starting to bang my head (the old people at the gym where I go stare at me anyway, so this just gave em another reason to stare).

There are 11 songs on X, with all but one clocking in between 4 and 6 minutes. Dankmeyer plays the guitars (and on this album, he uses an 8-string monster) and keyboards, but as far as we know, he uses software to create the other instrumental tracks. I can’t help but be amazed that this densely layered music was created by a single human being. I know it’s possible to create drum tracks and just about any other kind of musical sound using computer programs and sound samples, but I still think you have to have the mind of a drummer or a bassist or a keyboardist to create music that sounds this organic and tightly integrated, no matter how brilliant a guitarist you are.

And Dankmeyer is a brilliant, endlessly inventive guitarist, as well as a genuinely talented songwriter. What’s even more mind-blowing to me is how fast he creates the music. This is his fourth album release so far in 2010 (and his fifth overall), and the one preceding X was released in July. And, to me, the music doesn’t sound thrown together in a hurry — far from it. Moreover, although the songs certainly bear a unifying stylistic similarity to each other, X is not simply a single mass of indistinguishable music.

The album opener, “Loathing” is a Scandinavian-style romp, with pounding chords, swirling keyboards, and an epic sweep — reminding me at times of Amon Amarth. “drop e lolz” mixes the ringing guitar chords and technical solo flourishes with heavy chugging and Meshuggah-esque staccato riffs, and includes beautiful, piano-keyed melodies executed in tandem with dual-guitar leads.

“The Art Of . . .” includes more swirling keyboards and blunt-force riffing. It’s a real headbanger — but it also includes a prog-metal influenced passage, followed by an accelerating aggressiveness that ends the song with a real barn-burner of a finish. The next song, “metal idea”, features tremolo-picking and boat-loads of blast-beats, with another dual-guitar melody that spins like a fast-paced folk dance — and it even includes a brief, black-metal howl (one of the very few songs that includes any kind of vocalization at all).

“Nothing, Nowhere, No One” launches with ethereal keyboards but quickly shifts into another Gothenburg-inspired melodic romp — fast-paced grinding riffage and double-bass kicks married to multi-tracked, clean guitar anthems. “Cold” blends catchy guitar melodies with dissonant, down-tuned hammering; it’s catchy as hell, both rhythmically and melodically.

The album’s shortest track, “Instrumental”, is built around echoing, arcing guitars and a submerged electro-beat. It’s dreamy and atmospheric, the most clearly prog-influenced piece on the album.

I found it very easy to get immersed in X — like being pulled out to sea on a swift current, with Viking long-boats alongside and valkyries screaming across the sky overhead. I’ve found myself going back to particular songs repeatedly; they engage the mind as well as those autonomic processes that cause your body to move in sync with convulsive rhythms.

If I have a complaint about X, it would be with the pacing of the album — it’s almost all uniformly fast. It’s no secret that I like fast-paced music, and in Dankmeyer’s case, it allows him to showcase his guitar wizardry. But because this music is exclusively instrumental, I think greater variety in the pacing (more of what’s in evidence on the song “Nothing, Nowhere, No One”) would help further distinguish the songs from each other. But that’s a modest complaint — as it is, I though X kicked ass.

I didn’t include notes on all the songs above. I left out two, in particular, because I wanted to play them for you. They’re paired up back-to-back on the album, and they’re two of my favorites. Check ’em out for yourself:

Dan Dankmeyer: 2

Dan Dankmeyer: 07080

Here is Dan Dankmeyer’s MySpace page. And if you like this music, you can stream and download X — and every other Dankmeyer release —  via his Bandcamp page (at this location), which he has set up with a “name your price” option — which means no money or as much money as you see fit to contribute.

  12 Responses to “DAN DANKMEYER”

  1. Okay, to be perfectly honest, my gut reaction when NCS loaded was: oh, man, not another bedroom djent band. Then I read your description and I thought: well, maybe I’ll give the music a quick listen.

    2 blew me away. Someone give this man a couple of million dollars and make him score every action movie for the rest of his life.

    The music is so…evocative. Normally when people complain about playing being too technical and not emotional enough, I roll my eyes. But this guy has really given me a clearer idea of what “emotional” playing would sound like.

    07080 is pretty good as well…there was one section that I felt broke the “mood” of the song, and I would have preferred it be left out, but that’s a tiny complaint.

    And, for the record, I love the speed!

    • “Evocative” — exactly right. And for the record, I love the speed too. And if I wasn’t clear enough in the post, I don’t consider this “bedroom djent”, because there’s really not much djent in this album. Those Meshuggah-style riffs appear here and there, but it’s a pretty small percentage of roughly 50 minutes of music.

      • Okay, that’s fair enough.

        I don’t listen to Meshuggah much, to be honest, so while I’m familiar with the name “djent”, I can’t really identify it when I hear it.

        Well, whatever the hell this is, I approve. And I know that’s why you get up every morning and make posts on No Clean Singing. For phroproval. Hah! And to keep the cube at bay. Lest it cry “Havok!” and let loose the tentacles of war….

  2. Well Islander, now that you’re finally on the wagon you should do Tre Watson next. Keith Merrow too.

    • Absolutely. I know you guys write about them at The Number of the Blog, and I’ve been remiss in not following up — but now I get it. I’m very slow on the uptake sometimes (OK, most of the time . . .)

    • Damn… beat me to it. I was going to suggest both of these guys.

      I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. After them, you should probably check into Returning We Hear The Larks, the brainchild of Jak Noble. His stuff is more atmospheric, which makes for an entirely different experience. Also, I’m going to throw in a good word for Drewsif Stalin, who is ridiculously talented and does a variety of stuff, from djent to full on death metal.

      • Thanks for those recommendations. I’ve seen several posts you guys did on Drewsif Stalin and had put his name on a list to check out, but never got around to it. And I love the name Returning We Hear the Larks. I’m looking forward to this!

  3. other noteworthy 1 man Prog/Djent artists, Piotrek Gruszka AKA Gruz, and Returning We Hear The Larks

    you could always visit for these kinds of artists

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