They don’t share much if anything in terms of sound, but I’d still liken UK noisemongers Dopefight to Bongzilla, if only for the overarching weedian worship that makes its way into their music. It’s sticky, and on the trio’s first self-released full-length, Buds, there’s little left to wonder why. Even unto their album cover, Dopefight leave no question as to their proclivities, and the album is all the stronger for it. They’re not hiding behind their stoner side, not cowering away from it with pretty genre names or long explanations of why they’re something else. They’re punching you in the face with riffs and saying fuck off if you don’t care or don’t get it. Think of the aggressiveness of (-16-) at their best and maybe even a little Unsane melded with angry-as-hell lyrics and steady blasts of burnt out hardcore punk, and you might just be ready to take on Buds.
Though guitarist Owen Fareye Karti provides vocals on almost every cut – “La Mano Del Daemons” and the unnamed hidden track being exceptions – I’d still classify Dopefight as mostly instrumental, since many times you’re more than halfway through the song before any shouts crop up. In the case of “Brighton Town is a Fuckin’ Whore,” there are 20 seconds left in the song, and about half a minute for the later “Jock Witch,” “Bogtrotter” and “Pistophelees.” On some of the earlier material, the vocals come more toward the middle, as with “Leviathan’s Burp,” “Nob. Nod. Noi.” and “Specimen” – which appear in succession following opener “BabyGoatSick” – but even on that first track, they don’t appear until well after the halfway point. This lets the listener know off the bat it’s the music that counts, the riffs and the excellent bass work from Epic-fail Hale and the killer drum sounds of Ant Cole, but it can also be disorienting. If you’re not paying strict attention and expect vocals at the beginning of a song, where they usually are, it’s possible to get lost and not know where one song ends and another begins. It’s not like Dopefight are doing steady verse-chorus-verse songs. The vocals come in bursts, well after the riffs of a given track have established themselves.
The aforementioned drumming of Cole is all-important when taking account of what works best on Buds. Without the professional, wide-open cymbal sounds and perfect snare as it appears here (and I don’t think it’s triggered), the album and Dopefight both would be sunk in terms of their presentation on this debut. As Cole finds room for mini-snare rolls on “Leviathan’s Burp” and “Slug ‘n’ Mop” – the latter also features some of Buds’ best fills – it’s clear just how integral the drums are to a band like this. Of course, Hale and Karti are also crisply recorded and mixed, but without that foundation of drums to go on, it would be moot. That’s not to take away from either’s well-tubed tone, I’m just pointing out a fact. On the grooving closer “AmpNonceFuck,” one of the greenest of the green on Buds, the vocals come before halfway through, but as ever, don’t last or repeat structured parts, so it’s reinforced just how much of Dopefight depends on the quality of recording. They could have gone with a rougher approach, probably, but I think they would have lost something in the texture of the material by doing so. Buds is just the right balance of rawness and sonic clarity to do justice to Dopefight’s songs.
It’s a hell of a debut, and the bonus track’s acoustic folk boogie leaves me thinking Dopefight have more up their sleeves than just sludge and noise metal. Once settled into the routine of the record – and it might take a couple listens – the formula on which Buds is working becomes clearer, and the real strength of the album is allowed to shine through. It’s hard to find a band so set in their sound on their first offering, but Dopefight are as confident here as they are confrontational. I’ve been sitting with these songs for a few weeks now and I consistently go back to for repeat listens. While sometimes it’ll happen that I review something and never hear it again, I don’t think that’s going to be the case with Buds. Even in the worst case scenario of making it a road-rage mood piece, I’m an angry enough driver that I can see revisiting these tracks for a long time to come.
Tags: DopeFight, UK, Unsigned bands