The retroactively dubbed proto-metal movement of the late 60s and early 70s was one of the more interesting in rock history. Bands like Dust and Captain Beyond were just a step behind metal and too dark to be psychedelia, but their influence is still widely felt despite their obscurity. Thousands of bands take cues from these rock titans, but very few hit the same groovy vibe.
Norway’s Dunbarrow shows the most accurate representation of the proto-metal sound that I’ve ever heard on their self-titled debut. The guitars reach the darkest depths occupied by Bedemon and Pentagram, the up front vocals sound like Dickie Peterson with an accent, the bass is strongly felt throughout, and the drums keep things loose but hard hitting. That said, the production job is what really captures that era’s feel as the raw, hazy tone makes the listener feel as though they’re in the midst of a particularly intense rehearsal.
The album also features nine songs spread over a thirty-minute runtime, meaning that it is full of variety but has no room for bullshit. Several songs, like the opening “Try And Fail” and “My Little Darling,” thrive on straightforward blues swings, while others such as “Guillotine” offer moodier textures, and “You Knew I Was A Snake” and “Forsaken” dabble with more unhinged tempo changes. The short lengths do run the risk of producing rather shallow compositions, but the consistently easygoing nature and pleasant melodies provide a lot of replay value.
Overall, Dunbarrow’s debut is a mandatory listen for anyone who considers themselves a fan of proto-metal and early 70s riff rock. The era’s aesthetics are captured in way that are next to impossible to achieve in the modern age and the songwriting is pleasant enough for more casual rock fans to get into. I wouldn’t put this on the same level as Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer’s earliest outputs, but they may be the ones Saint Vitus refer to as being born too late…
“Try And Fail”
“My Little Darling”
“Witches Of The Woods”