The Dogs - ‘The Grief Manual’ (Drabant Music) Print
Written by Gerald Stansbury   
Monday, 01 January 2018 04:00

The Dogs The Grief Manualapproved image lrgDespite their lengthy history, this album is my first exposure to The Dogs. I feel confident this will not be the last time either, as this monster from the Norwegians comes raging out of the speaker, and I scribble down ‘Total 13’-era Backyard Babies as a reference point. I have not heard their first five albums but plan on correcting that in the future based on this one.


‘We Were Made Out of Loss’ provides a great start at 100 mph, sounding like a speeding locomotive with gruff vocals and a contagiously cool chorus. There is also a great solo that cuts through everything. One of the awesome things throughout much of this album is the music creates energy and gets the body moving while the lyrics paint a dark portrait of living. Take this verse from the opener as an awesome example: “Her soul was clouded in absence/A crucifixion without the cross/In all form, shape, or essence/She was made out of loss.” Instead of dwelling in a pit of misery, Kristopher Schau’s vocals and words become a cathartic exercise with the music.


‘The Children He Loves The Least’ continues the musical onslaught with what sounds like scraping chains underneath the intense beat by Henrik Odde Gustavsen and the awesome Chuck Berry on speed riffing of Mads Martinsen. My notes have a scribble referencing Nashville Pussy’s first album in terms of pace and intensity but without the southern rock influence. The final message of the song reminding us that “Life’s just a short fever/Don’t waste it behaving like some goddamn believer”.


‘Told With Bad Intent’ sounds totally different at the start with a quieter, slower, restrained start through the verse that leads into a big chorus. ‘Primitive Etchings’ slows the pace down with a midtempo song that vocally reminds me a little of Jim Morrison and includes some tasteful harmonica by Kenneth Simonsen. With the change in pace, the darkness feels much more prevalent here than it does on the first three songs. The rage returns with the dark gospel defiant punk of ‘We Won’t Come Back’ likely becoming responsible for many future speeding tickets and closes side one in style.


‘Hindsight’ features another catchy, cool riff with a chorus mixed with a little fuzz for added effect and would feel right at home on a compliation album featuring early Hellacopters, ‘Total 13’-era Backyard Babies, Gluecifer, etc. Stefan Hoglin’s work on the keys should be commended across the album, as they are never too prominent in the mix but add some great spice to the songs. ‘Prelude to Murder’ reminds me of a ‘60s nugget infused with extra testosterone and heaps of punk snottiness in the chorus, while at the same time being a duet with Jorunn Stiansen. Roar Nilsen’s bass and Kenneth Simonsen’s percussion really shine throughout the album as they propel each of these songs forward. ‘Her Last Song’ slows the pace and at over five minutes becomes the epic on the album. The sadness and despair permeate through every note musically and vocally. Tasteful cello and violin add to the darkness with a great extended guitar solo to end the song.     



The album’s home stretch features a one-two punch with ‘Oh Why’ with the musically upbeat again at odds with the message. The call and response middle of the song introduces another element to the album as Kristopher reminds us that “Hope is so fragile, like the bones from a bird”. Album closer ‘Lie To Me’ recalls how the album started with a straight ahead hard rocker featuring a razor sharp hook that leaves the listener struggling to decide whether to hit repeat on this song or the album first.


The Dogs open 2018 with an awesome album that will be getting a lot of plays throughout the year. With a consistent theme of darkness, the album could be overbearing but instead sounds vital through the music as the band picks their moments to go all dark while usually instead providing uplifting music to serve as a balance. If you like any of the bands I mentioned, do yourself a favor and check this one to get your 2018 off on the right start musically, as I make a note to make sure I remember this is a 2018 release for when I make my Top 20 list at the end of the year.


‘The Grief Manual’ is released today.


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