Review Summary: A triumphant return that re-establishes the band as eclectic metal luminaries.
Baltimore-based Dog Fashion Disco have always been difficult to pin down. Combining such potentially dissimilar genres as alternative metal, funk and cabaret, the collective made a name for themselves with their unique crossover style. The act's eclectic tendencies backed by sharp songwriting turned such albums as Anarchists Of Good Taste
and Committed To a Bright Future
into exciting genre-bending offerings. The band was clearly on a roll last decade but they didn't hit their stride until 2006 when Adultery
was released. Their trademark eclecticism blended so well with film noir concepts that the result was one of the most adventurous records of the last decade, a collection of stylistically varied songs dexterously bound by the theme of crime.
The new album from reunited Dog Fashion Disco comes out after eight years on the grounds of a successful crowdfunding campaign, and it's totally in line with the expectations of fans perfectly epitomizing what the group are all about. Instead of venturing into new musical realms, Sweet Nothings
settles on the act's familiar fusion of styles. Sturdy metal-centered arrangements are augmented by jazzy woodwind instruments and spooky keys taken straight from a horror movie. The allure of the record lies in how effectively these divergent influences are combined. The sextet are equally captivating when they deal in robust metallic head-bangers and playful funky cuts. There's a fine balance of both these track modes here. The off-kilter progressions of such pummeling songs as 'Scarlet Fever' and 'Envy The Vultures' are contrasted with the danceable grooves of 'Doctor's Orders,' the Caribbean rhythms of 'Struck By Lightening' and the idyllic atmospherics of the title track.
The group's penchant for sonic and stylistic experimentation isn't strictly restricted to the mellower segments, though. The heaviness of 'Down The Rabbit Hole' is wondrously drenched in oriental soundscapes before the song resorts to psychotic outbursts built around a polirhythmic guitar play echoing The Dillinger Escape Plan. Meanwhile, 'We Aren't The World' is a powerful if bitter anthem that uses children chants and circus music to genuinely creepy effect. The riffs courtesy of Jason Stepp permeate through these tracks with fierce intensity ranging from pulverizing to kaleidoscopic. Yet the guitarist also shows new-found finesse on the sleek 'Approach and Recede,' putting in a series of piercing solos. Brian White's audible bass lines are also instrumental in keeping the presentation engrossing throughout. Not only does White bring infectious funky foundations to the songs, but also provides ingenious clunky beats on many occasions.
Although Dog Fashion Disco mostly work within the confines of linear song structure, they are able to turn every track into a thrilling ride fueled by eccentric ideas. Todd Smith's chameleonic vocals only enhance the record's multifaceted nature as he effortlessly oscillates between melodic croons, charismatic chants, devilish falsettos and tenebrous baritone, adjusting his vocal style to the music with admirable shrewdness. His lyrics are not as tied by a concept as they were on Adultery
, which makes them more thematically diverse if no less zany at times. For instance, a political anti-war statement of 'War Party' is juxtaposed with bold sexual assertions of 'Approach and Recede.'
There's insidious darkness loitering beneath the surfaces here, implicit regardless of whether the sextet are rolling at full tilt or holding back. The pair of tracks that bookend the disc attests to that. 'Greta' is an achingly sorrowful account of lost love made even more brooding by a smokey saxophone solo. The closer 'End Of The Road' advances from similarly contemplative balladry to doom metal agony. The guitars pummel mercilessly, the distorted bass thunders, the keys squeak in a demented fashion, and Smith screams out ominously “Pale death's creeping in.” This is Dog Fashion Disco firing on all cylinders and in the process reaching their full potential. Sweet Nothings
could easily be a failure like countless comeback records. Instead, it's a stunning reunion album that re-establishes the band as eclectic metal luminaries.