The precipice of heavy metal in the late 60’s and early 70’s was, is and will continue to be an undying point of passionate obsession for an incredibly diverse set of fans worldwide; That pivotal era’s existence begins to appear self-perpetuating and unchanged when glancing backwards in time while present day observers rely on nostalgia and impressionists to classify what they halfheartedly follow. Approximated sounds and retro-reaching groups appear to many folks as an exact contradiction of the spirit that drove said era of now-classic hard rock and heavy music. Does ‘backward-thinking’ musical style enforce the caricature status of a dope fueled cultural revolution? I personally see it as foundational repair rather than revisionism. Haugesund, Norway five-piece Dunbarrow are unquestionably informed by the demons of ’68-’73 rock and proto-metal historic but much like Witchcraft, Demon Head, and Demon’s Eye they’ve angled that ancient metal tongue towards the crotch of modern doom metal standards.
In fact if you’ve got all your shots, and you’re up to date, you’ll almost immediately hear a bit of Magnus Pelander (Witchcraft, ex-Norrsken) and Christian Linderson (Lord Vicar) in Dunbarrow vocalist Espen Andersen‘s inflections as he belts out his increasingly vital role in the band’s sound; A subtle echo and a small bit of vibrato for emphasis does a lot to draw instant comparisons but these Norwegians aren’t necessarily recreating ‘Firewood’ or ‘Fear No Pain’ here. There are some subtle Sabbath vibes and the songwriting occasionally has some Witchfinder General and garage days Pentagram nods but Dunbarrow‘s sound is, to my ears, almost distinctly Scandinavian even beyond vocal accent. Early Burning Saviours did something similar with a few more bells and whistles, but uglier sound and questionable keyboard work, on their debut back in 2005; I think folks who have followed this sort of ‘retro’ stoner/proto-doom activity for the last twenty years will see Dunbarrow‘s discography thus far as a stunning and memorable set of releases in the style.
‘Dunbarrow II’ or I suppose ‘II’ is no exception but this second album brings some spit-polish to their eldritch-kissed sound alongside the aforementioned uptick in Andersen‘s presence. The result is something less sleepy compared to Dunbarrow‘s previous self-titled debut from 2016; It appears no less doomed yet, I feel a sort of storyteller’s ambition beginning to rise in the band’s sound. “Please Let Me Be” is nothing short of seduction between it’s dream-like wobbling groove and lyrical trip; This is where I think Dunbarrow begin to differentiate from the early 70’s occult rock informed doom metal pack. “Ode to the Moon” and “The Wolf” are a different sort of standout where the sound and style aren’t anything new but the band have never sounded more ‘classic’ and in a their own glorious pocket of proto-doom. The centerpiece for the album, at least for my doom-leaning tastes, is “Witches of the Woods Pt. II” as an unassuming, relatively simple track whips out an early Sabbath-esque twang in it’s second half. The full spin is an easy-riding listen that carries it’s gloomy, sourly stoned despair well across it’s 35 minutes without wearing out ever wearing thin.
Dunbarrow offer a proto-doom/occult heavy rock fan’s ideal playground on their second full-length and I can easily recommend it’s chilled out, understated performances. If you need big, swinging grooves and bluesy guitar work with that unmistakable Norwegian flair for disquieting atmosphere ‘Dunbarrow II’ should suffice. There is a very 70’s melodrama driving the whole thing through themes of love’s tension-and-release that will likely feel earnest for those inclined towards Dunbarrow‘s ethos. It may not be anything I’ve not heard before personally but there is something to be said for how well they’re doing it. Highly recommended.
A darkening waylaid night. 4.0/5.0
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