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Reviews

Dope Body
Lifer Owen Sennitt , November 12th, 2014 15:17

Dope Body's brand of primordial, psych-addled noise rock is a lot of fun. Their 2012 release, Natural History felt life-affirming, urging a desperate release of suppressed energies in 47-minutes of brutish, ecstatic frenzy. Its disjointed, angular attack made it excitingly unpredictable, dispersed with a low-end 'sludge-hammering' groove that settled deeply in the gut, all tied up with melodic sensibilities that widened the sound to expansive levels.

Now, two years later, the Baltimore quartet have returned with Lifer, their second album released on Drag City, which sees Dope Body taking a departure from their past releases. Their raw, off-kilter virility still makes for a ferocious record. Yet gone are the frenetic guitar melodies, being replaced with full-frontal riffing that dynamically ebbs and flows. Lifer is the elder statesman of Dope Body's output thus far, calling for greater structure and direction without losing any of its rough intensity. If anything, they have revved up their raucous energy, with the heavy moments being relentlessly driving, a weighty Cadillac pummelling forward across a fractured tarmac. There is greater focus on progression, building the songs into the bludgeoning thrash they inevitably become.

The album bursts out full throttle right from the start, hammering on the snare drum and toms, leading to a fuzzed out intro propelled by David Jacober's frantic drumming. Then it falls back into the slow, creeping groove of 'Repo Man', with a bass line that harks back to 90s grunge, lurching along underneath Andrew Laumann's crooning vocals. The song is afforded space to grow into a chorus which hauls itself into a roaring climax, pounding on the strings before dissolving into distorted feedback.

Opener 'Hired Gun' is an upbeat, fist-pumping anthem that would be a pretty conventional rock song were it not for the scratchy lead guitar of Zachary Utz. The track begins with a buzzsaw melody that gets grinding power chords in response, before zoning-out into a reflective passage in preparation for the final sing-along chorus that is undeniably catchy. The weird, disruptive guitar inflections make this song not as accessible as it could have been, but this unpredictability is what makes Dope Body stand out from the crowd.

As a whole, Lifer is a definite homage to the 90s, with plenty of nods towards Jesus Lizard, in its rough, dark and gritty tone and the loud/soft dynamics that are prevalent throughout the album. Yet it is not simply rehashing what has come before. This is a hard-rocking record that harnesses the spirit of heavy, boundless energy inherent in the music of Lizard, Mudhoney and Butthole Surfers. It also harks back to metal's forefathers, with plenty of Sabbath-esque moments heard in the rumbling grooves. 'Nu Sensation' has a gurgling, low-end riff that sounds as if it has come right out of Motorhead's back catalogue, coursing through the track to its pounding finale. Then tracks like 'AOL' offer relentless thrash that suddenly collapses into distorted melancholy before crashing back into the main riff. Throughout the record there are scatterings of skewed post-punk, with driving bass lines reminiscent of Peter Hook, such as in 'Day By Day' that pop along with a twisted funk. Lifer in fact seems to travel across the spectrum of rock, melding influences to create a riotous beast.

With Lifer, Dope Body have created a record that punches you square in the forehead. Their sound is an organic, eclectic mix of influences brewed out of furious jam sessions in the bleak and desolate streets of Baltimore. Where the album is most successful though, is in its achievement of capturing the raucous, unhinged live sound that the band create when they set upon the stage with a whirlwind of noise. It embodies a rock & roll spirit that is rarely found in such abundance today, but Dope Body have it by the bucket load.

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