Dirt Forge

Soothsayer

Written by: AP on 08/10/2017 23:00:34

A product of the Copenhagen metal scene in the truest definition of the word, Dirt Forge consists of musicians who run music blogs, volunteer at venues, DJ at club nights and host a successful annual talent showcase for up-and-coming artists, such as they themselves used to be only two years ago. One would thus have assumed that the trio’s experience of what works and what does not, might have stopped them from releasing such a crummy and hastily assembled record as their 2015 EP, “Ratcatchers”, because if there is one thing that the sludge/stoner metallers’ début album, “Soothsayer”, proves, it is that with patience and hard work shall the fruit be borne.

From the onset of the opening track, “Rust & Copper”, the three musicians showcase a tremendous growth in terms of both technical ability and songwriting prowess. There is more willingness now to shift the dynamics between fast and slow, loud and quiet, and guitarist/vocalist Alexander Kolby’s riffs have their own personality instead of sounding like a soulless mimicry of Black Tusk’s and High on Fire’s ditto. And crucially, Kolby has heeded my call for guitar solos — an unavoidable staple of the genre and one of the main reasons why the band’s penchant of penning lengthier-than-average compositions no longer demands so much patience. But although “Rust & Copper” tries to harness all of these elements, it actually turns out to be one of the weaker cuts off the album, its lack of a clear focus and lasting value blatantly exposed by the standout duo of “Fortress Burning” and “Bring Me Good Noose” immediately after. The former captures the listener’s attention at once, with its teasing, Clutch-esque introduction of clean, bluesy guitar notes, Nicolai Lomholt's chiming cymbals and a quietly intensifying, two-note bassline, courtesy of Yannick Bünger Kristensen. This all builds up to what must be one of the most scorching riffs that Kolby has thought up thus far and what sludge metal dreams are made of: a marriage of Down and High on Fire that sounds so right as the foundation for his ultra-masculine growling style. What ultimately etches the piece into the fabric of memory, however, is the throttled down, desert-rocking segment near the end, with the lyrics, ”Bring them in for the slaughter, by the man who they voted for / Bring them down underwater, and watch the fortress burning on”, ringing far beyond the song’s duration. As the longest track on the album, “Bring Me Good Noose” is a different, heavier beast reminiscent of Crowbar, ploughing forth in slow lumbers before picking up the pace halfway to dabble in the essential sound of NOLA, and finishing off with one of those guitar solos that you just know is going to be played eyes closed, arched back, and given an extra iteration or two in the live setting.

Neither of the mid-album cuts, “Intet tabt, intet hændt” nor “Stone”, quite manages to arouse the f**k yeah! sensation of the two songs above; both sound like relics from the “Ratcatchers”-era, preferring aggression over elegance. The former ropes in Kolby’s passion for crusty hardcore and sticks out like a sore thumb, while the latter resembles Dirt Forge’s countrymen in Barricade so much that it becomes a distraction, even if its chorus does deserve some merit. Dropping these two tracks would have cost “Soothsayer” just five minutes and honestly, the end product would have felt more cohesive — a realisation that should dawn on everyone at the onset of the ambitious, three-part title track comprising “The Blind”, “Die Waiting” and “For Our End”. Although “Fortress Burning” and “Bring Me Good Noose” bring immediate satisfaction, it is this closing trident that makes the record truly arresting, welding together the mournful grandeur of doom, the ferocity of sludge and the purview of progressive rock to create music that is memorable not because of a riff, chorus or solo, but by virtue of the finesse with which all of the disparate influences have been made to flow and interact with one another. The three songs betray a maturity that one typically would not find in a band of Dirt Forge’s age, offering songwriting in the highest order and hopefully foreshadowing the future direction of Dirt Forge’s music.

As the reader might have already gathered then, “Soothsayer” is one of the best débuts by a Danish metal band that the undersigned remembers, and if the trio manages to iron out the last remaining creases, only circumstances beyond their control might cast them astray of the upward spiral that they have now (quite unexpectedly!) entered. Compared to “Ratcatchers”, Kolby has taken steps to add more breadth to his vocals now — most notably the baritone singing heard at times — but his growl still has a tendency to become pretty monotonous over the course of the album. Clearly, it is not ability he lacks, but eagerness; there is untapped potential in that Neil Fallon-esque singing of his, and ditto in the number of times that Kristensen’s yelling-style back-up vocals go unused. This coupled with the inclusion of the two songs that, to me, feel very incompatible with the red chord running through the album, holds Dirt Forge back somewhat from spreading their wings. But in the grand scheme of things, such minor hiccups are hardly enough to invite scorn upon the band.

8

Download: Fortress Burning, Bring Me Good Noose, Soothsayer II: Die Waiting, Soothsayer III: For Our End
For the fans of: Black Tusk, Crowbar, Down, Pantera
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.05.2017
Self-released

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