[EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s guest post is from a Midwestern dude who will become a regular guest contributor to NCS, and his NCS nom de plume is BadWolf.]
Michigan is known for many things: the automotive industry, cherries, astronomical rates of violent urban crime. To this list I would add excellent melodic death metal bands that routinely sound straight out of northern Europe. The most well known of these bands is The Black Dahlia Murder, but the underground scene in Michigan is filled with bands that sound quintessentially Swedish. The best of these bands might be Michigan’s best-kept secret, Dagon (there’s a HP Lovecraft reference right in the name — of course they’re quality).
Dagon play melodic death metal reminiscent of NCS favorites Arch Enemy and Amon Amarth, full of big chunky riffs and anthemic choruses—this is hook salad, not riff salad. So what? Melodeath bands dealing in earworms are a dime-a-dozen. Where Dagon excels is in the sheer number of subtle neoclassical and prog nuances they add to the formula.
Twin lead guitarists Chris Sharrock and Briant Daniel employ NWOBHM-style guitar harmonies to create a thicker, meatier guitar sound than most (read: over-produced) bands emulating the Gotheburg sound. Bassist/Vocalist Randy Ladiski is the band’s MVP—his prog-tinged six-string basslines propel their songs with an impressive gallop while deepening the melodies and occasionally dipping into funk territory. Randy’s co-vocalist is drummer, Truck Batterbee.
That’s right, singing drummer. Batterbee and Ladiski share vocal duties about 50/50, with Ladiski providing low gutturals and Batterbee handling Abbath-sounding black metal shrieks. Their voices are intense but audible. When listening to Dagon, even a metal novice can easily decipher the lyrics (completely focused on ocean-related topics), which are well-written and poetic if not incredibly insightful. That’s fine, melodic death has never been the genre of choice for stupendous lyricists anyway. (more after the jump . . .)
The whole package is impressive in its versatility. Dagon is comfortable with crowd-pleasing but controversial songwriting tools like breakdowns and blast-beats, but wisely employs them with great restraint. These boys understand that less is more.
Their latest release, Terraphobic (which has received some critical acclaim in the blogosphere) kicks off with back-to-back thrashers “Cut to the Heart” and “Demons in the Dark” before shifting gears to the proggy bass-driven title track which could almost be a ballad were it not for the extreme metal vocals. The pace picks back up and does not relent until album standout “To the Drums We Rise,” which begins as a mid-paced fist banger with a chant-along chorus until it culminates in a beautiful guitar solo and a thunderous breakdown. Terraphobic proceeds directly into the fastest song on the record, “Full Speed Ahead”, with its breakneck double-bass and a well-placed measure-and-a-quarter rest that only makes the reprise which follows rip more. The record even ends with some Judas Priest worshipping falsetto vocals.
This much should be clear – Terraphobic is a well made and better-paced album. The sound is Gotheburg but the craftsmanship is more reminiscent of classic Iron Maiden or Metallica records—that is to say, high-quality without sacrificing ethereal qualities like “groove” and “flow.” Dagon keeps the craftsmanship high even on their DIY covers EP Buried Treasure, where they manage to take a relatively tame song like Pat Benetar’s “Heartbreaker” and make a thrashing barnstormer out of it.
Go forth, listen to Dagon, an indie metal band that kicks like a Summer Slaughter vet, and deserves more attention. Their MySpace page is here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: And here’s a song from Terraphobic for you to check out: