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DMBQ - Esoteric Black Hair

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Artist: DMBQ

Album: Esoteric Black Hair

Label: Fake Chapter

Review date: Feb. 7, 2005

Listening to Esoteric Black Hair is like mainlining a musical speedball of Hendrix, free jazz, noise, metal and the MC5. A quartet originally from Sapporo but now based in Tokyo, DMBQ plays rock stripped to its primitive core, chugging along on flailing drums, ecstatic riffing and piledriver bass. Esoteric Black Hair is the band’s 11th album since their inception in 1988, and its seven pieces don’t just rock in the conventional head-banging sense (and they definitely at times do), but provide a full-body submersion in sonic power more akin to Merzbow than Led Zepplin.

In an interview founder, singer and guitarist Shinji Masuko has described DMBQ’s composing style as simply hitting record, making with a guitar as loud a sound as possible, continuing for 10 minutes then stopping. Such intuitive, jam-oriented methods certainly apply to the overcharged boogie of “Ohh! Baby,” “Smoker” and “Magical Relation.” In the latter two, blistering, ass-kicking licks worthy of AC/DC slice in and out of a wall of crunching chords, granite bass and thundering drums.

Yet more is at work on Esoteric Black Hair than simple power chording. In an interview with Dusted’s own Mason Jones, Masuko says he often “makes music like a puzzle,” and the most powerful pieces here reflect this method. “Fellows” twists and turns, danger lurking around every corner, prog rock’s complexity compressed into a few dizzying minutes. “Are you satisfied?” starts with a monstrous Sabbath-like, heavier-than-thou guitar figure, but as with every track on the album nothing seems safe, for the fabric of the song disintegrates and the tempo lags, only to pick up speed until the original riff re-emerges, doubled in intensity.

Even amidst all the strum und drang, DMBQ can be subtle in their onslaught. “Altered Rock” morphs from hard-rock pumping to fits of noise to butt-shaking breakdown to subterranean rhythm section rumbling and back again, yet one never notices the shifts – you just go along for the ride, growing more disoriented at every turn. On “S.S.S” the quartet balances vaporizing blasts of noise with rock’s unflappable low-end, as Ryuichi Watanabe’s galloping bass plays launching pad to the squall of synth and guitar feedback’s cosmic lift-off.

Masuko’s lyrics, nearly unintelligible, come across as primal grunts and howls leaping, like the music, for the subconscious jugular. This is catharsis, whether you want it or not. I imagine that DMBQ puts on one mind-melter of a live show, and in fact much of Esoteric Black Hair hits like the raw punch of overloaded on-stage decibels. Live or not, it’s a fantastic, head-cleaning declaration.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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