Chained to the cemetery gates? Alice gone bad? The cover art suggests that the once half-buried-in-the-desert-woman has risen, yet the music on this version of the album suggests she is much further underground with its sinister interpretations from an assembly of deliciously dark and doom-laden bands.
Like a creature of the night growling and spewing its hatred over the top of cleaner vocals, the album begins with THOU’s take on ‘Them Bones’. This track doesn’t try to be the original and uses a different harmony/ melody and the guitar work feels more lazily self-assured but it’s a great way to kick off the album; you know you’re in for something quite different. With all the dark and cavernous spookiness of a graveyard at midnight, LOW FLYING HAWKS creep in next with ‘Damn That River’ a screeching like a bow being slid across a saw, it’s a slower slightly psychedelic experience with soft but stern vocals and guitars that feel restrained. Is this even the song? At almost twice the length of the original version, it’s unrecognizable until half-way through but compelling nonetheless.
HIGH PRIEST flood in with a more straightforward but impressive cover of ‘Rain When I Die’ it’s a chunkier approach and as much about the music as it is the vocals in this version – there’s a minute of instrumental with guitars building up to the tune. The vocals are softer, longer, and clearer, the harmonies are great and the track fades out and back in true to the original. Instead of being greeted with Sickman next, it’s ‘Down In A Hole’ from KHEMMIS, this is the longest offering on the album (over a minute longer than the original) and is a Sludgier rendition with lots of extra ups and downs pitch-wise. The vocals are more serious, words more pronounced, and impressively damning. This version has a lot of depth.
THESE BEASTS pick up the pace of this album with ‘Sickman’ – one of the things to admire about this song are the tempo changes and this band does not disappoint! The track feels infused with madness and the chorus retains the trippy swirliness of the original but is more frantically Doomy. It’s a noisier affair in general with throaty growls screamed over the frenzied guitaring. HOWLING GIANT’s take on ‘Rooster’ is recognizable from the intro and chorus but otherwise very different. When Layne sings, it feels like he is half-watching under heavy eyelids, whereas this version feels more ‘awake’. The intro may be the same but there are more notes within the guitar work and some fast double-kick drumming. The vocals are softer and more tuneful and the layered vocals really work well but it’s a different tune entirely and the song is a lot fiercer right to the last note.
Again, unrecognizable is FORMING THE VOID’s version of ‘Junkhead’, it feels like the music outweighs the words, with more ‘distant’ vocals but the solid bass thrums work well for adding extra oomph to the chorus in particular. The song may be missing some of the vocal howls and yowls of the original but it doesn’t feel as intoxicated and makes for a more hopeful kind of anthem as a result. The guitar solo fits perfectly, intricate but not fussy.
SOMNURI’s cover of the original ‘Dirt’ title-track is similar but powerfully Sludgier. The vocals are relaxed and strong and the harmonies work well but the actual lyrics are less obvious. This version feels like a heavier, bigger, and more suffocating song than the original. Whereas there’s a very early 90’s era Grunge flavor to BACKWOODS PAYBACK’s cover of ‘Godsmack’. The original tune is kept and it has a rawer feel than the other tracks on the album. It’s an entertaining version, feels less foreboding and the drum tempo is different, verging on crazy at the chorus and all ready for BLACK ELECTRIC’s contribution of ‘Iron Gland’, which is perfectly timed at 0:43 seconds but less of an insane interjection, more a Gloomy interlude complete with the redrum echo.
-(16)-‘s cover of ‘Hate To Feel’ is a similar tune to the original with hushed but clearer lyrics for the most part, a thought-provoking splatter of blood-thirsty throaty growls at the chorus and a wild finish which paves the way well for VOKONIS’ approach to ‘Angry Chair’ which is a much more crunchy Metal version both instrumentally and vocally. This style detracts a little from the original melody but you can recognize the song. The lyrics are more uttered/chanted until the choir-like chorus and there’s that ‘distant’ feeling to the vocals again.
The round-up to the album is provided by THE OTOLITH and their Gothic execution of ‘Would?’ complete with solemn strings and fuzzy bass line. With a similar tune to the original but flatter chorus, this lengthier version has a much hazier and moodier texture and the ending vocals are SCREAMED at you, it is no longer a gentle question.
Nothing will ever replace the original masterpiece (nor should it) but the way in which these bands have re-sculpted each track makes this album a must-hear. Let your mind take a journey down memory lane – you’ll end up somewhere completely different.
“Dirt [Redux]” is available now via Magnetic Eye Records
Review: Suzi Bootz
. LOW FLYING HAWKS –
Dam That River
HIGH PRIEST –
Rain When I Die
04 Down in a Hole
5.THESE BEASTS –
6.HOWLING GIANT –
7. FORMING THE VOID –
9.BACKWOODS PAYBACK –
09 God Smack
10.BLACK ELECTRIC –
10 Iron Gland
11 Hate to Feel
12 Angry Chair1
13.THE OTOLITH –