What goes around, comes around. What’s old is new again. People say this shit all the time because it holds so true. We’ve seen it with just about every style of music, and metal has gotten some real good out of it (see: re-thrash, “occult” metal). While I don’t know exactly what constitutes a genre “revival,” I do know is that if my limited awareness tells me anything about a recent “nu-metal revival,” it’s safe to assume that a “NWOAHM revival” is just around the corner… or emerging. If we are in fact uber-predictable creatures of habit, Nashville’s Dark Hound might be a harbinger of the return of trucker hats, studded belts, and Jagerbombs.
The band’s latest full-length, Dawning, is awash in early-aughts production, style, and feel. Falling somewhere on the thrash-ier end of the NWOAHM spectrum, there’s no doubt that this four-piece would fit right in on a Gigantour or Ozzfest. With no shortage of galloping double-kick rolls, cymbal stops, stompy grooves, dual-guitar harmonies, a balance of aggro barks and clean vocals, and a bunch of those solos that’ll probably make people do that fucking dumb shredding gesture. Bassist ET Brown’s vocals are great, making use of a number of different approaches to the record’s hooks (of which there are many). Often layered, there’s strong Dallas Coyle (God Forbid) vibes to be heard in the cleans of his voice, as a dusky and dark timbre permeates much of the record. His commanding barks are more of a typical thrash yell (“Guilt Tripper”), sometimes a warmer, less leathery sounding Tom Araya (“Balancing Act”). Lyrically, it feels akin to the NWOAHM boom years, too, tackling personal issues with an in-your-face defiance, but I still have a tough time getting a read on the character. They seem super earnest at times, but then call a song, uh… “Thrashgasm.” The album art feels epic, throwback, but also kinda silly?
While vocally dominated, the guitar-forward mix of duo Even Hensley and Preson Walls puts a heavy emphasis on finesse riffing and the aforementioned abundance of soloing – these dudes can play. ET and drummer Josh Brown beef up the attack as a serviceable rhythm section, doling out a good spread of grooves, punchy stomps, and even some blasts and more restrained moments. With songwriting that feels very Megadeth inspired, Dark Hound dips their toes into prog-thrash waters but remains heavily anchored to delivering the hooks, some of which can get a little long in the tooth. It makes for a stimulating listen throughout, but the formula gets a bit predictable as the album wears on. The guitar phrasing oftentimes feels familiar and sometimes downright destitute or imitative. Listeners who haven’t grown up on helpings of Evile, Shadows Fall, or God Forbid may not be bothered by this, but this writer couldn’t shake it. This isn’t the end of the world, though. Truth be told, there’s not a real weak track in the bunch, but the problem is that the standouts are few, too.
More experimental elements like the bridge in “Guilt Tripper” or the extended structure of “Here Lies Truth” would’ve been welcome, and Dark Hound could lead the pack on an early-aughts revival. They’ve written a satisfactory contemporary thrash album, and maybe it’s a timing thing, but the shadows of the 2000s speed/groove metal giants still loom over Dawning, regardless of how intentional this “revival” effort may be. These dudes achieve a solid balance between guitar-geek proficiency and quality choruses, but frankly, it’s not enough to stand next to the evolved takes from the Revocations and Power Trips of the world. Dawning’s handfuls of less-conventional moments have them really sparking, making the rigid thrash box they find themselves in most of the time feel too standard and vanilla – it’d be nice to see them break from the four-to-five minute track length and more selectively choose their battles and highlighting their strengths on a track-by-track basis instead of dissolving them into a weaker brew. Unless you’re an absolute connoisseur of this subgenre, you’d be hard-pressed to choose this over a record like Earthsblood or Rust in Piece.
Dawning is out January 19, 2018. The album is available to purchase digitally here.