14 September 2018

Dirty Raven – Rust for Blue

Rust for Blue is the third EP from French post-grunge group Dirty Raven. Described in their press release as ‘heavier, darker’ and ‘more personal’ than their previous offerings, the EP is said to describe a story based around a dystopian future, following in the ‘footsteps of humanity’. Taking influence from the potentially tragic route the human race is headed down is becoming increasingly common in many forms of art, not just music, yet it still never fails to spike my interest as a topic, not least because the options for conveying such a narrative are practically endless. I am always interested in how it is interpreted by different artists, more so in this case as what little I had already heard of Dirty Raven sounded like it leant towards radio rock tunes more than ambitious science fiction narratives.

It takes barely twenty seconds of the opening track, Desert of Champagne, for the influence of mid-2000s post-grunge bands to become abundantly obvious. I am instantly reminded of the likes of Seether and Staind, particularly the melancholy yet melodious sound peddled by the latter. The guitars follow a simple strummed chord pattern, with a very thick, fuzzy sound that gives it a droning quality. It has very little in the way of attack or punch, and no riff to speak of, leaving you to focus on the vocals instead. But these also just pass you by, without much in the way of a hook for the listener, and the reverb laden tone means that the lyrics aren’t particularly clear either. The same styles are employed in most of the remaining four tracks. Hell on Heels has more in the way of a memorable riff and a chorus that might stick with you. The bass guitar has more to do on this one, playing a main riff while the guitars are left in the supporting role. But again, the simple strummed chord patterns quickly begin to blur the lines between songs. Both Fall of The Curtain and Hypocrisy show more promise, the latter featuring a falsetto chorus not far removed from a Queens of the Stone Age track. U.F.O is the saving grace of this EP. While the other four tracks try to blend foreboding soundscapes with a straight forward rock format, U.F.O is the track that truly embodies the dystopian future the album is said to be about. The single bass note repeated behind a repeated clean guitar line is close to hypnotising, and this clean build up gives the main chorus more punch when that familiar fuzzy guitar tone returns. The vocal delivery is also far more emotive and engaging than any of the other tracks, sounding haunting and desperate, making it most engaging one track on the EP.

It is clear that Dirty Raven are trying to deliver an emotive and soul-stirring musical performance. However, in focusing on the overall tone rather than individual songs they have achieved a group of five tracks that are barely discernible from one another, whether that be in rhythm or tone. I’m reminded of the original Blade Runner soundtrack – indeed, that could be where much of the influence has come from. But whereas films have a visual element to complement the music, Dirty Raven have done little else to engage the listener. They have neither stuck to the safety of traditional post-grunge song formats, nor completely embraced the ambitious theme of the album, and as such haven’t quite managed the level of engagement I imagine they were hoping for.

Highlight: U.F.O

Rust for Blue is released on 28th September 2018 and can be purchased here.

Dirty Raven can be found on Facebook.