Review Summary: These are such godless days. I'll drink to that.
Following the release of Adultery back in 2006, DFD called it a day. Presumably, at least in part, because it must have felt like there was no room at all for improvement. However, it wasn't enough for Todd Smith, Jason Stepp and John Ensminger, and so they partially reformed as Polkadot Cadaver. Despite the obvious similarities, and the adherence to the eclectic inspirations and stylistics, they managed to be a very different band, using lots of electronic melodies and largely dispensing with the horn section which helped to define DFD. As a result, it felt very worthwhile last year when DFD reformed and released Sweet Nothings, a slightly straighter album than they had previously tended towards, but still very much a DFD album. Leap forward a little more than a year and they have now released Ad Nauseam, thanks to the huge success of Sweet Nothings' crowdfunding effort, and it feels like they have produced something that acts as a culmination of both bands. Whilst the horns are as prevalant as they ever have been, it is arguable that the unifying point of this album is the piano, which plays an important role in most of the songs, often providing identity through being subtle or minimal.
The title track fades in quickly and kicks off with a keyboard riff straight out of the Polkadot play book. It rolls along on the alt metal style that both bands honed perfectly with a superbly catchy chorus that attaches itself to the brain. Once it reaches the breakdown however, the sax kicks in and it becomes readily apparent that this is classic DFD. As an opener, it is on a par with Rose Covington and will leave a huge grin on the face of anyone who ever merely nodded their head to anything by either band. Last Night Never Happened is next, and it starts off a doomy theme that carries on throughout large parts of the album. A slow and gloomy verse is kicked into gear for the pre-chorus, which leads into another stunner of a chorus where the horns are used brilliantly in a subtle way to underpin the groove, and is then pulled apart to Todd Smith screaming the title refrain. The song plays out under the same screaming, then with hardly a beat Golden Mirage kicks in with a very saloon-funk piano line, building a much lighter tone for its duration. Featuring lyrics about being stranded on an island (although this could be a meaphor...), the sax and piano balance perfectly against the guitars, creating a wonderful bounce-along tune that would have sat perfectly alongside Tastes So Sweet and Doctor's Orders on Sweet Nothings.
The last time Jason Stepp went full-on Slayer was What's The Worst Thing That Could Happen, and for that the band went off on all sorts of crazy tangents. Covered In Blood surely takes its inspiration from Slayer's continued releases, but this time they go all-out Slayer, Stepp shredding for all he's worth and even unleashing a properly thrashy solo. It feels both completely different from anything they have previously done and also something completely familiar.The next track is Only The Haunted, which is probably the weakest track on the album. Although it rides along with a nice riff, almost stadium-rocky and tracked for extra oomph, it features a rare uninspiring chorus, and ends up feeling fairly forgettable, especially in comparison with the rest of the album. Thankfully, Lotion On Its Skin is able to pick things up, a song featuring extra jazzy and bouncy verses whilst being about mental torture and serial killings. The furious piano stabs under the chorus create a kind of rock 'n roll vibe, creating a juxtaposition similar to that of Pogo or Chloroform Girl.
Watching You is another album highlight. As the title implies, it is about stalking and an unrequited obsession, and the guitar work alongside choral vocals in the verses is so haunting that it creates an almost tangible sense of paranoia and dread, to the extent that you can practically feel the spiders crawling all over your skin. The song builds superbly well, really hitting its heavy peaks during a powerhouse of a chorus, then coming across almost operatic in the breakdown before ending ominously slowly, leaving the listener wondering about the fate of the object of the song's affections. Very reminscent of Touch You Like Caligula in the way that it progresses from creepily downbeat, steadily amping up the tension and heaviness until a majestically huge climax. It is almost a relief that Baby Bones starts calmly, with slow grand piano chords and quiet vocals. When the off-kilter drums kick in just past the minute mark, they help to speed the song up, yanking it off in a surprising direction without reducing the tender effect initially built up. It features melancholic strings, and the heavy guitars bleed in as the song progresses, before a short, almost ethereal solo signals a harmonious collision of all parts that highlights the real strength of the band. Album closer Starving Artist brings memories of earlier DFD in that it mixes up all kinds of styles, the straight up rock intro leading into an almost grindy interlude, before the piano leads the verse down a sombre lane. Another top alt-metal riff drives the verse and the chorus rocks out with all sorts of extra sounds and effects layered over each other. Halfway through it performs a complete about-face, dropping all of its toe-tapping catchiness and rolling into the doom that pervades the album so well to play out on. Despite the brilliance of the song however, it does feel slightly out of place as the final track following on from Baby Bones, which sounds like a much more rounded closer.
Dog Fashio Disco have only been back for a relatively short time, but the double header of the fruits of their crowd-funded campaign, possibly followed up with a hinted-at, full-on Polkadot Cadaver album sometime soon has placed them right back at the front of the alt-metal crowd, leading and inspiring with pretty much everyone else in their wake. If they aim to continue Ad Nauseam, then on this evidence at least, sickness and debility is a long way from killing these guys off.