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Dub Trio | IV

album review by John Powell

Dub Trio | IV

All hints of Dub Trio’s one-time fascination with old school reggae dub is gone at this point, with the release of IV, their (surprise, surprise) fourth album. If there are any lingering dub aspects it’s in their obsession with heavy bass and rhythm-oriented composition- but gone are the one drops drumming and counter-rhythm stylings. It’s all heavy, heavy shit, somewhere in the ooze between metal and prog rock. If you were in love with their mix of reggae and metal, prepare for something more focused than 2008’s Another Sound is Dying, but also something way less reggae than Exploring the Dangers of.

They’re best at their combination of the two genres. See their tour as Matisyahu for prime examples. When they implement rootsy reggae they strike home, (the absolute best recent example of this is the opening track to Matisyahu’s Live at Stubb’s Vol. II). This is not to say IV isn’t in and of itself a worthy album, it’s just not for the faint of heart.

The opener, “En Passant”, begins with Joe Tomino’s signature heavy kicks laying down the tempo. Dave Holmes enters with a single chord likewise tempo thump. Stu Brooks’ bass is, for a short time, low in the mix. When they finally unravel into the melody, it’s Slayer-level awesomeness. Joe’s drum patterns are complex. They find their groove in Stu’s roving bass. While the song seems to follow a chaotic energy, it’s tight compositions mixed with frenetic energy, landing in a pool of calculated noise.

“Control Issues Controlling Your Mind” has a sliver of pop sensibility, scorching in on a rapid fire riff, stripping down into a slow-tempo stomp, like Swamp Thing marching through the forest, dragging mud and horror with him. Two minutes in, there is a fraction of dub breakdown, everyone but Joe dropping out for a moment. He creates a simple beat for feedback to murmur under. It does, in fact, sound like a control issue, jetting from one extreme to the other.

The eight-minute “Words” showcases Joe’s doublet-time kicks, furiously interspersed with crash symbol and snare rock anthem-ing. Dave tries out anthemic guitar noodling. The song, sort of multi-compositional, threads into a breakdown with what sounds like chains rattling. At one point the bass almost sounds happy, but not for long. Stu’s ever-present low-ends harnesses some weird pagan magic, both beautiful and scary.

A key track is “Swarm”, a chance for Dave to dip into his shredding ability. Oftentimes, while the riffs are quick, he’s not flying over the fret board. Here, mixed with bar chords, Dave freaks on a bit.

There’s only one part that’s too much: the beginning of “Noise”, a high-end tone that agitates like a dog whistle. Seriously, something about it makes it seem my ears are bleeding. The rest of the two and half minute song songs like “Noise” indeed, but the fun kind. Still, that tone…

It’s hard to accuse one of the players as being the one to tie the group together. They’re a trio, the strongest shape there is, able to hold their own while utilizing the others to develop a force of sound to be reckoned with. If you’ve never heard their more reggae-esque jams, check them out, and then compare to this whollop of metal-tastic instrumentalism. Is it their best work? I feel like we’re comparing apples to oranges at this point. It’s all fruit, but some is sweet, and IV is most definitely tasty tart.

Bottom line: The CD face is the noses of three Big Bad Wolves blowing clouds of energy. That’s basically what this album sounds like.


 

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