If you are searching for an album to redefine everything you know about production tricks and pretty composition, you can stop reading now. But if you’re looking for an album that packs attitude by the ton, you are in the perfect place.
On the third proper full-length from Baltimore quartet Dope Body, we’re given nine songs that converge as a celebration of fun in its most savage, nihilistic form. The art that graces the album cover is a near-perfect visual representation. This slightly contorted band portrait is bent on painting an image truer to the mind’s eye than reality itself.
The album starts with a discordant mixture of wind chimes and sputtering guitar noise, introducing aggressive drums and droning strings that comprise the body of opener “Shook.” Vocalist Andrew Laumann wavers between a disengaged growl and an emotionally distraught scream, between thoughts of longing and suicide, and comes out wanting. All the while, the band remains static and calculating. The track fades back into wind chimes that usher us into the rock and rolling motion of “Road Dog.” The band quickly switches gears and shies away from the “emotional” stuff to tap into their notorious reservoir of rabble-rousing. With almost childlike conviction and concision, Laumann demands “Do what you wanna do/See what you wanna see/Go where you wanna go”; he follows with the antagonistic admission “I’m just talkin’ shit/I’m just pissin’ off.”
“Beat” finds them again in their element, instigating chaos with a shit-eating grin (or, as Laumann himself details, with “blood on his teeth”). The band condenses into a pompous, percussive stomp, the guitar serving as a noise foil to the rhythm. Dope Body’s crass arrangements at times evoke the Jesus Lizard or Big Black (or most any Albini-engineered project for that matter). Songs like “Twice the Life” and “Powder” wear their metal roots on their sleeves, the former with its prog-metal guitar work surfacing the coda, the latter with dizzying instrument dialogue in the chorus.
“High Way” and “Weird Mirror” follow with structures (and lyrics) more static than their predecessors, and seem to lack the same emotional affect because of it. Rather, Dope Body find themselves indulging in the simple pleasure of playing rock music. Album closer “Lazy Slave” returns to a relatively calm tempo and a spacious groove that is absolute headbanger candy. This track could be a potential liaison for fans of hard rock contemporaries Torche or stoner metal royalty Sleep. Laumann declares, “I’m breakin’ free of these chains,” before assuredly announcing “I have seen it all and I know it’s mine.” The song boasts rebellion and redemption from the temptation of self-destruction in all of its forms, right before vocalist Laumann dares Zachary Utz’s guitar to a life-affirming howling contest.
Natural History is not concerned with making a statement. Dope Body seems much more interested in being wild and being bold, seeking and destroying authority, and insisting an aggro swagger not unlike our Cro-Magnon ancestors distanced from us in history museums. We can be confident they are not trying to marshal the creative direction of rock music. They are having so much fun they don’t care who’s watching. This record is a perfect soundtrack for any drunken destruction party, tantrum, or any other moment of great primitivism. And as a music listener, you can ask for little more than something so natural.