[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:
Gawd I love this album… Sometime in the (near?) future Dagon will be making an appearance over at TNOTB, I’ll try and let you guys know before it goes up.
“Michigan… Bunch of Swedes cames here over two-hundreds years ago, got fats and ugly. Huh. I loves it.”
We call that the Americanization of the Swedish gene pool.
and they’re tons of fun live
In bed with the flu, so listening on my phone. And even then, despite feeling shitty and not really in the mood for anything but sleep and sounding like from inside a tin can, this stuff still sounds incredibly pleasing. Amon Amarth is a very accurate comparison! It’s got that same heroic skull bashing setting, same pace, same thickness of the rhythm guitars. Great find! One I’ll soon be checking out for DMB myself, if you don’t mind.
Of course we don’t mind. Spread the metal love!
I liked it. Terraphobic goes to The List. How are Secrets of the Deep, Paranormal Ichthyology and Buried Treasure? Also worth checking out?
Unfortunately, I’m not too familiar with the metal from my fellow Michiganders. Where I am, there’s not as much of a metal scene that I know if, but I don’t really go out much either, so I’m probably missing out on something. If Dagon were closer, I’d consider going to see them live, but that’s a long ass drive for someone without a car.
And in response to what Andy Synn said about Swedes coming over… well, we also got the Finns. Fuck yeah! But that hasn’t really given rise to Americanized versions of the likes of Amorphis, Finntroll, Moonsorrow, Swallow The Sun, Barren Earth, Kalmah… oh, I could go on for a long time, in all breeds of metal (namely the addition of prog and power metal).
This tends to confirm my theory that something in Finland’s water supply mutates children in the womb and turns one out of every two into hot-shit metal musicians. But when they leave the home country, and the water supply, the new generations turn out to be normal schlubs like the rest of us.
Hmmm.. That gives me an idea.
For the NCS brewery, import water from Finland to make the beer. Maybe get some from Gothenburg too for making a second brew.
Outstanding idea! This goes on The List of how to spend all the money from Africa . . .
Well, I’m full of ideas, among other things.
None of their other records are nearly as well mixed, which becomes an Achilles heel.
Buried Treasure, as far as covers discs go, is FANTASTIC minus the cover of ‘I Ran,’ but not possible to obtain except from Dagon themselves. I have one of only a few hundred hard copies.
first track of this album tears my brain inside out and stomps on it. love this album and i will definitely look for them in the touring schedules