Okay, Dinkumoil, I kind of get what you’re trying to do, bringing thrash back to its new-wave British roots with your melodic riffing and your Iron Maidenish ‘galloping’ tempo. It’s a project I fully endorse. Indeed, when I found your album on eBay, I was thinking to myself: NWoBHM-inspired thrash metal from China? Sign me up for that shit! So I load up the album and queue up ‘Night Rider’, and I’m immediately face-dunked into some kick-arse shredding leading straight into a pretty sweet thrash line. So there’s no question in my mind that Tian can handle a guitar with no small skill, or that Chen can keep him in line on the drums. But then poor Tian starts singing and I immediately do a double-take.
Having some vocal training, I can tell he’s got a fairly decent voice… if he would only care to use it. As it is, most of the time it sounds like he’s belting out the mostly incomprehensible lyrics through a megaphone in a rather poor, nose-heavy imitation of latter-day Ozzy. On some tracks, like ‘Time to Revenge’ and ‘Miss Pretty Do Dirty’, where he’s not aiming for a high tenor register and missing it, he actually manages to sound like he knows what he’s doing. However, those occurrences are sadly rarer than I would expect. Tian doesn’t really give himself enough time or space on a 30-minute album to become truly annoying – which is certainly more than can be said of, say, Geddy Lee. At the same time, all too often the vocals are what bring the music down, on tracks like ‘The Fanciful Stories’.
The standout songs here are ‘Night Rider’ – a kick-arse, high-energy opening track with a decent guitar solo near the end; ‘Miss Pretty Do Dirty’, which has a good laid-back bluesy hook launching into a full-on righteous metal tirade in the style of Iron Maiden’s ‘El Dorado’ (and also has a fairly sweet guitar solo, but which ends on a ‘what the fuck’ note when it seems like they’re being tepidly applauded by three primary-school kids); ‘Stimulant’; and ‘Hit the Road’.
‘Stimulant’ has the saving grace of being entirely instrumental, and it seems fairly out-of-place on first listen, but it is a brilliant piece of music with much to appreciate on its own merits: bookended by an opener and a closer (the ‘withdrawal’ segments) whose fully acoustic melodic sound is suitably mournful and slow, before and after the ‘high’ segment where the guitar-work suddenly downtunes, distorts and gets kick-started with drums and bass into a frantic, desperate tempo. Tian is playing with the same melodies, but the context is suitably warped.
‘Hit the Road’ is also worthy of mention – partly because it seems like Dinkumoil threw in the towel and said ‘fuck this thrash shit, we just want to play NWoBHM!’ Part of me is just begging to compare it with Judas Priest’s ‘Riding on the Wind’, since that seems to be the sound they were going for with the hard-rocking ascending guitar work; but that’s really not a fair comparison. For one thing, Tian’s no Rob Halford, and you really need a vocalist comfortable in that upper-tenor register to make a song like this work – the result is that ‘Hit the Road’ is a fairly good early 80’s-style metal number, but one which is far more constrained than it should have been.
The lyrics… what to say about the lyrics? Okay – I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for Engrish (that’s part of the reason why I listen to Galneryus). You have sort of the standard sex-drugs-fast-driving-rock-and-roll-lifestyle lyrics on ‘Night Rider’, ‘Hit the Road’ and (on the surface) ‘Miss Pretty Do Dirty’, but in between you’ve got some angry social commentary which alternates between the laughably ham-handed and the profound. ‘DH1’ talks about mobs in the streets and the detachment of people in wealthy countries; ‘The Fanciful Stories’ is essentially a rant against disciplinarian high-school English teachers; while ‘Time to Revenge’ reads like a hardcore punk song, covering environmental issues, economic inequality and hypocrisy in the global North on the topic of conservation. And ‘Miss Pretty Do Dirty’, while apparently about a girl who prostitutes herself for rich men, she’s described using these lyrics:
You making the dog-eat-dog world You are the cause of bloody war If someone get taken prisoner by you Paid you money everything they can do
… which could be describing the Chinese government, or any government which supports corporate interests and the military-industrial complex. Their political lyrics, thankfully, aren’t whiny like all too many punk songs are – Dinkumoil, in the grand tradition of Pariah and Kreator, are all about using knuckles to put paid to people who do shit they don’t like.
In short, you have a first album from a band doing something I’d like to see more of; the fact that they’re from China is very much an added bonus. At the same time, they have quite a ways to go, ironing out what to do with the vocals.