REVIEWED: Dunwich - 'Tail-Tied Hearts'
Sometimes all you need is a name, and you know everything you need to know. Black Sabbath. Neurosis. Cannibal Corpse. Cradle of Filth. You know what you're getting with names like those. And in a curious way, you know what to expect from Russian trio Dunwich. If you're pressed, it sounds like a town in the English countryside, picturesque on the surface but there's darkness and sorrow just under the surface. The sort of place innocent holiday makers pull into just as “A HAMMER HORROR PRODUCTION” appears on the screen, a feeling perhaps helped along by the various permutations of Hammond organ littered through out the eight tracks on this debut release. The real Dunwich is in Suffolk and down the centuries has dwindled from a large town to a hamlet as it's washed into the sea as people leave. Who knows what other tales of that small village echo down the centuries waiting to be unearthed and told?
There's a sense Dunwich the band do, and despite the modern production, the amplification and instrumentation, and mid-paced black metal and other genres that you could pick out, that the trio use these as a vessel for far older traditions; maudlin songs of blood, love, death and loss. The aforementioned black metal is certainly a broad church, but despite its fondness for folk music (or Völk, in some more politically dubious outfits), it's not the main starting point here. There's elements when the war drums are joined by classic buzzsaw guitar and a witch-like growl, like on 'Solitude' and the pounding 'Through The Dense Woods', but the majority of the music is plaintive clean guitar strums and echoing chords of swirling Hammond organs, topped off with atmospheric female vocals, channelling bone-borne ballads that are timeless as they are enigmatic. 'Wooden Heart' is perhaps the centrepiece of 'Tail-Tied Hearts', based on a legend of a jilted lover cutting out her heart and flinging it into the sea, with the legend going on to say that she still haunts the area, and when her heart washes back ashore it brings great misfortune to those who pick it up. Perfect fodder for a dark rock song in other words, as it writhes and sways in a dream-like re-telling. There's other highlights too; the more conventional rock orientated 'Mouth Of Darkness', which has the drive of early Joy Division and the type of epically thrilling keyboard action that we last saw with Jon Lord in his purple patch, and is well due a revival if it's as tasteful as this and follow on track 'Fall'. The swaying ballad 'The Sea' brings this tale to a close with sea-foam flecked guitars and a churning rhyme that never sits quite at rest.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Dunwich is that they're so eerily familiar yet so utterly absorbing at the same time. It's a compelling mix of local legends and the universal human experience. ‘Tail-Tied Hearts', for all the modernity you can pick out in terms of genre, is rooted firmly in timeless moods: fear, love, rage and loss and melancholy are what springs to mind when recalling their music; eternal emotions that will always be with us come what may. In that sense, Dunwich will never run out of tales to tell, and we hope they keep telling them forever more.
'Tail-Tied Hearts' is out now via Caligari