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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Dog Fashion Disco

Sweet Nothings

Review by Mike Korn

If you’re looking for a band that’s easy to describe, Dog Fashion Disco is not your pooch. In my conversation with lead vocalist Todd Smith, he preferred to refer to them as “an experimental metal band.”That’s true enough, but doesn’t even begin to hint at the rainbow of sounds they encompass. Everything from full bore thrash to what sounds like Jewish klezmer music  and “Rat Pack” era jazz is found in Dog Fashion Disco, but there is lots more besides. The amazing thing is how catchy they manage to make it all sound.

The band have been cult favorites for years and now return from a brief hiatus with Sweet Nothings. It’s the perfect intro to their eclectic style and shows they haven’t lost their touch since their earlier classics like Committed to a Bright Future and Adultery.  Holding everything together is the tremendous vocal talent of Smith This guy is a world class singer who can croon cocktail lounge ballads or scream Slipknot-style barbarity. There is not much more I can say about these kooks, except pull up your chair and dig in!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review

Talk about an atypical opener, this is it. Instead of a crash and bang, we get the sound of vinyl record hiss and a slow, somber piano. This is a subdued, minimalist ballad that sounds like a desperate love letter to silent movie star Greta Garbo. At first, piano and Todd Smith’s hushed voice is all we hear, but eventually a skeletal drum beat comes in and also a great smoky saxophone solo. This tune sounds like it could have easily fit into the Golden Age of Jazz and incredibly enough, I dig it a lot!

War Party

This is the kick in the pants we were first expecting! A powerful but catchy metal riff kicks in but it isn’t long before the typical Dog Fashion Disco quirkiness manifests itself with a kind of madcap circus music feel. The way these guys mix heavy metal with jazz and ethnic music is phenomenal. It’s like Slayer mixed with a ska band! A real surprise here is that the lyrics are very political and anti-war, which is out of character for these dudes.

Scarlet Fever

This opens with a lot of dark, nervous energy and a thick, syrupy bass sound. Somehow delicate piano balances with raw guitar to make this an extremely interesting song with an explosively heavy climax. Todd Smith shows how he can switch from hushed, quiet vocals to a powerful shout with ease.  This is an intriguing song with a lot of things going on!

Tastes So Sweet

I really love the snazzy piano licks that start this off. This is one of those Dog Fashion Disco songs that sounds like crazy clown music. Then it blows wide open into one of the sunniest, happiest choruses you’ll ever hear, with a ton of joyous brass making it sound like a 60s pop song. There’s a lot of classic pop here, but still that heavy guitar, as well. There’s a section with a pounding metal riff and what sounds like Herb Alpert’s Tiajuana  Brass playing on top of it. Nobody else is doing this kind of stuff!x

Doctor’s Orders

This is pure bad ass funk right from the early 70s with some great horn playing and wild bass. The lyrics are absolute nonsense but fun to listen to. The energy in this song is off the charts. It matches up really well with the best ska bands in the business.

Envy The Vultures

The previous two songs showcased the fun and brassy side of Dog Fashion Disco, but this takes a left turn into very dark and dangerous territory. The rolling metal riff really growls and Smith’s singing is much more aggressive…you can hear the sneer in it. There are some quieter and mellower moments, but even these are tense and dark. It’s not an easy song to get into, with a lot of dissonance, but shows another facet to the band’s talent.

Approach and Recede

Another twist in the DFD sound, this song comes across almost like progressive metal, jumping through a variety of styles. There’s an Arabic or Oriental touch to some of the chords and the guitar on the verses is as heavy as the album gets, but there’s also lighter touches. The vocal hooks are very strong. This is a fascinating song that has the whole group firing on all cylinders.

Down The Rabbit Hole

This is a defining song for Dog Fashion Disco. The pulsing, heavy riffing that alternates with mysterious, subdued menace is what the band is all about. This is hypnotic stuff that reaches deep inside your head. There are even shades of Pink Floyd during some of the more subtle moments, which give way to jagged, broken glass riffing that seems to reflect mental illness.

We Aren’t the World

The queasy, off-kilter feeling continues here. This whole song sounds really fragmented and to me is probably the least pleasant to listen to. But that seems to be exactly what DFD is aiming for. The lyrics are as bleak as the music itself: “We Aren’t the World/We Aren’t the Children/We are anesthetized as we multiply/Ignoring our fault lines.”

Struck By Lightning

After the darkness comes light and so we have this, probably the breeziest and campiest song on the disc. It’s driven by old fashioned Mellotron keyboard right out of the psychedelic era and a really funky guitar line. There’s a real reggae-style feel to the song and the chorus is just absolutely infectious. There’s also a smoking saxophone solo.

Sweet Nothings

There is a lot of funk in this one with Todd Smith beyond excellent as he whispers and croons some snappy lyrics. Something about this song reminds me of the height of the disco/funk era, but it has plenty of heavy guitar, too. I could easily imagine this as a radio hit back in the 70s.

Pale Horse

This is the heaviest and grimmest of all songs on the album. Smith’s vocals become deeper and more menacing, the mean guitar riff has some of the feeling of old Black Sabbath and the track in general deals with the inevitability of death. The horns on this one actually add to the ominous feeling. The song actually features one of the few unabashedly heavy metal guitar solos to be found here.

End of the Road

As if you haven’t been through enough of a musical roller coaster ride, this final song takes the cake. Believe it or not, it starts with down and dirty acoustic guitar blues that sounds completely authentic. Piano comes in and Smith’s vocals are ethereal. This is just awesome blues-based music. After a jazz/reggae break where every musician gets to shine a little bit, you’ll be blown through the back of your chair when a super heavy doom metal riff comes blasting in! Slow and deadly, this is just amazing! The distorted vocals moan and mutter about “that pale death creepin’ in.” This is a terrific and unexpected ending to the album.

Hidden Track

After several minutes of silence, we get this, which isn’t a real song at all, but the idea behind it is extremely cool. Over a bass/drum riff, Smith recites the names of every single person who contributed to the Indiegogo campaign that funded this record. Just imagine if you were one of those people. It’s a pretty novel idea! (Although Spock’s Beard did a similar thing, but it was a real song, a while back – ed.)

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