"City of Dust"

(Battleground/The Compound)

01. Despite All
02. Rats in the Walls
03. Brushfires
04. Snake Oil Dealer
05. Shooting Down the Sun
06. Palace of Thorn
07. City of Dust
08. Plague Widow

RATING: 7.5/10

Tucson, Arizona's GODHUNTER have a few complaints to get off their backs and they have a largely slow-dealing vehicle to make sure their listeners are getting the message. The country is fucked and so are you. Sounds like the preamble to hundreds of other metal and punk albums, yet GODHUNTER's sludge 'n doom debut "City of Dust" wears its principles upon its tattered sleeve and good chances are you'll remember them afterwards.

GODHUNTER claims BLACK SABBATH and BLACK FLAG amongst their principal influences, and black is probably understating their sound. Call it more like charbroiled. There is nothing pretty about "City of Dust" outside of the appositely handsome (if underhandedly tenebrous) acoustic-based number, "Shooting Down the Sun".

Screamer Charlie Touseull leads the sluggish charge of his noisy quintet, which plays so raw and so close to each other one could be sold on GODHUNTER instead being a trio. "City of Dust" unhurriedly clambers upon the heels of the societal indictments cited on the slithering opening number "Despite All". Here is where GODHUNTER sounds most like BLACK SABBATH with repeated dirge chords that relatively pick up in pace after the sloth-like opening bars. The band's punk inspirations manifest on the murky choruses of "Despite All" and then spill into the gloomy couplet, "Rats in the Walls" and "Brushfires". Greg Ginn's chunk-a-munk riff blares are given tribute by the combined crush of David Rodgers and Jake Brazelton on these two numbers. Rodgers and Brazelton are so much in sync they sound like a single guitarist, while Ryan "Dick" Williamson lobs equally sticky bass chords beneath them. Charlie Touseull woofs overhead the songs' ugly dealings, but his constant condemnations are compelling.

Touseull takes a back seat to fellow Arizonian Carlos Arzate (of CARLOS ARZATE & THE KIND SOULS), who colorfully decorates the languishing melancholy of "Shooting Down the Sun" with musty though affecting clean leads. The change of pace, though equally depressing, becomes a much-needed reprieve from the omnipresent droning and bellowing that resumes at increased rhythms on the next numbers, "Palace of Thorn" and the title track.

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The most impactful moment of the album outside of "Shooting Down the Sun" comes on "Snake Oil Dealer", with a somber soundbyte of Arizona sheriff Clarence Dupnik's commentary that his state has "become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry" on the heels of a mass shooting on January 8, 2011. The song wraps with tense campfire crackling and wailing coyotes. As if the band condemning careless starters of statewide conflagrations on "Brushfires" wasn't harrowing enough.

The soundbyte of "more conflicts, more arguments, more fighting" that opens the ten minute closing track, "Plague Widow" is a summary of everything "City of Dust" seeks to rebuke and the song itself is a nasty, if subliminally hopeful closing statement. At least GODHUNTER's sampling choice here proposes resolution instead of supporting what could've turned into a ceaseless bellyache. The cello by Matthew Davis (also credited with keys and effects) fading out into a field of nattering locusts is equally haunting as GODHUNTER's earlier external aesthetics. Here is what separates their album from their peers, a smart sense of accentuation to give their primary clouting tones and retching impeachments some sense of accountability. "City of Dust" is hardly perfect, but it is the beginning of something potentially monstrous.


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