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Dunsmuir: A Clutch by Any Other Name

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Clutch frontman and bearded dynamo Neil Fallon certainly isn’t the biggest name in newly-formed supergroup Dunsmuir. That honor falls to drummer Vinny Appice, whose past credits include Black Sabbath and Dio. The band also includes bassist Brad Davis of Fu Manchu and guitarist Dave Bone of The Company Band, so there’s definitely plenty of cred and talent to go around. But even without Fallon’s distinct soulful bellow and one-of-a-kind lyrics, Dunsmuir’s self-titled debut would sound a hell of a lot like Clutch, so much so that some might call it a clone of sorts. However, the band manages to distinguish itself enough with it’s unique sound, and even if they didn’t, Clutch fucking rules, so it’s okay.

Even the album’s concept — a tale of shipmates trying to survive the wilderness and the supernatural forces dwelling there after their vessel crashes — feels distinctly Clutchian. What sets the band apart from Fallon’s flagship project is a classic metal sensibility. Bone’s guitars evoke early Priest, Maiden, and Sabbath, while Appice’s drumming is steady and firm, never ambling off into too much crunchy experimentalism. The record is straight-forward and rocking, which might seem a little simplistic to some but tickles the classic metal fan’s old-school sensibilities wonderfully. Meanwhile, the production on the vocals varies enough from that of Clutch that Fallon doesn’t always sound like he’s performing in Clutch the Second (though most of the time, he does).

At its base, the album has three distinct flavors–drunk, stoned, and both. The first is fast and loose, with tracks like “…And Madness” and “Our Only Masters” providing danceable rhythms and grin-inducing leads. The second is heavy and magical, with “What Manner of Bliss?”, “Church of the Tooth,” and “Crawling Chaos” churning out huge stomping riffs that will remind fans of the best moments of post-Ozzy Sabbath and nineties Motörhead. But it’s the balanced numbers, the mid-paced ragers like “The Bats (Are Hungry Tonight)” and “Deceiver,” that are the most fun, and seem to best connect with what Dunsmuir is trying to do. The variation makes the albums incredibly satisfying if not mind-blowing, a fun way to spend an afternoon.

That’s the thing: Dunsmuir isn’t going to leave anyone speechless, or change the way music is perceived across genres. It’s a cool, fun, rock record bordering on a classic metal record, which is really what a lot of metalheads want to listen to most of the time. And it does sound a lot like a Clutch album, but as previously stated, Clutch are a great band who do fun things, and if you’re going to sound like an awesome band, why not have their singer along for the ride? Dunsmuir is like having a solid cheeseburger at a restaurant you’re finally getting around to — it’s familiar, reliable, and fucking delicious.

Dunsmuir’s self-titled debut is out now on Hall of Records. You can stream and purchase the entire album here.

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