Review Summary: Earnest Christian punk: not as much eardrum-gouging and face-palming as you might expect.
Christian music is generally really, really, really bad. If it's not awkwardly anachronistic and shoddily executed, it's an exercise in trying too hard for credibility and projecting insecurities onto the public at large. Bands are either so eager to spread the gospel that they don't worry about little things like learning how to play their instruments, or, inexplicably, are so eager to make religious proselytising seem edgy and hardcore that the whole thing becomes a little bit creepy and sad. In both cases, the common theme is a focus on ends rather than means; they have a specific aim in mind rather than just enjoying the simple act of making music. Dogwood, thankfully, buck this trend – at least in the case of Seismic
– providing an album of passionately performed, well-executed punk rock that is equally enjoyable if you are a pew-junkie or a run of the mill heathen like myself.
While the label "Christian punk" might elicit some nervous twitches, unless you concentrate on the lyrics (which are generally aren't too bad) there's no difference between Seismic
and any other solid So-Cal style punk release. If anything, the music is significantly better than what you'd expect from a lesser known act in the genre. The album is filled with razor-sharp melodies, great vocal hooks, locomotive drumming, lively bass and generally high-quality musicianship (by punk standards, at least). In fact, the lazy man's thumbnail description of Dogwood's sound would probably be: a sombre NOFX headed by a sober Fat Mike.
That's not to say, however, that Seismic
is wholly derivative. On the contrary, Dogwood gradually cement their own identity over the course of the album. Perhaps the band's most distinctive and admirable trait is that of communicating an urgency and depth of passion, helped by an emotive delivery reminiscent of melodic hardcore acts such as Rise Against and Ignite. Rather than straying too often into the territory of trite preaching, Seismic
is more introspective, with the band more concerned with reiterating their own convictions rather than trying to convince others. This approach is in turn augmented by plenty of bitchin' minor scale octave riffs and heart-puking vocal delivery. The blend is particularly pleasing on tracks such as "Seismic", "Absolution", "Home Is Here" and "Faith".
It's not all sunshine and puppy dogs, unfortunately, as Seismic
does have its faults. Most glaringly, while the album is blessed with very little filler, "filler" is far too complimentary a title for those tracks that do miss. When Dogwood slow it down and go pop punk on "Trailer Full Of Tragedies" and "Last Of The Lost", the results are truly putrid. While I'm sure the idea was to change it up a bit and prevent the album from becoming too repetitive, I will always choose an all-pizza diet over liver and onion Thursdays to keep things interesting.
The odd blip aside though, Seismic
is a good album. Although nothing earth-shattering, the record will present a pleasant surprise for genre adherents, providing plenty of head-shake/lip-bite inducing songs to sink your teeth into. It's honest music played well by seemingly sincere individuals – something quite difficult to scorn excessively. Significantly also, the album is a welcomed blow against all the cringe-worthy, self-righteous hacks which pollute the airwaves under the banner of Christian music. All in all, it's refreshing.