Thursday 14 December 2023

Dune Pilot - Magnetic (2023)

Country: Germany
Style: Hard/Stoner Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Dec 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | YouTube

I don't know a heck of a lot about Dune Pilot. They're a four piece hard/stoner rock band who hail from Munich, though you wouldn't guess the latter from listening to them. Not only is stoner rock a quintessentially American genre to begin with, they play it in a very American way, unaccented vocals delivered in English with an American turn of phrase. What's more, they often combine the stoner rock sound with a hard rock sound that reminds of Clutch, any British forebears mostly lost in abstraction. Maybe Black Sabbath are a little noticeable in Let You Down, but otherwise they're filtered through the expected American bands.

Which ones manifest pretty quickly. Magnetic is perky stoner rock with less fuzz on the guitar than I expected. The riffs are strong but the hooks are strong too. The vocals are clean but with a slight rasp for edge. There's plenty of Clutch here but some Kyuss too. Visions lightens up initially for an overtly psychedelic feel with vocals deliberately subdued for effect. Both build and a minute in we find ourselves back in that Clutch meets Kyuss territory, with some Monster Magnet thrown in for good measure as it gets heavier, that missing fuzz added right back in. This one bulks up generally, even if it drops back into a jaunty midsection, but it gets heavy at the end and then heavier again.

As the album runs on, the Kyuss influence starts to morph into a Queens of a Stone Age influence, a nuance I know but a telling one. Lumi goes there, but So Mad really goes there, especially late in the song. It has a swagger to it as it builds and eventually overlays a Queens of the Stone Age style melody over a fuzzy guitar and a glorious drum sound. The grit in the voice is getting progressively grittier but the hooks take over and we think about a single release. Dune Pilot like to be versatile, so Heap of Shards is more laid back, even with a relatively harsh clean voice, while Pied Piper is perky and Highest Bid comes right back to Queens of the Stone Age and Clutch.

I liked this a lot and I liked it quickly. The title track opens things up and, while it doesn't include all the aspects of Dune Pilot's sound, serves as a strong introduction to what they do. It has the hooks we expect from a stoner rock band like Queens of the Stone Age who have broken into mainstream awareness and whose catchiest songs hit the charts. It also has the emphasis of a more traditional hard rock band like Clutch, the power they can bring to bear always ready to go in the background even in a quieter song or section.

An obvious example is Take Your Lies, almost a ballad for this band, with one of a number of tasty bass intros—there's another one on Let You Down—backed by just a hint of atmosphere, before a liquid guitar joins in and softer, echoey vocals. It's definitely down a couple of gears from the norm for Dune Pilot but we never forget that there's gas in the tank and the band have their feet ready to hit the pedals. Eventually, of course, they do and it's like they never calmed down at all.

It's hard to pick out favourite tracks, not because there aren't standouts but because they're very different. I like Visions a lot because there's so much dynamic play in it and I like that sort of thing, especially when it's done as well as Dune Pilot do it. I like Let You Down because, even though it's under five minutes and not even the longest track on offer, it has an epic feel to it that's far from the norm here but very effective. Ultimately, I'd go for So Mad because it just flows so well. It has nothing that other songs here don't, but it does those things so well that it feels effortless.

I thought about a highly recommended 8/10 rating early here but the first half does shine brighter than the second. I ended up going with a merely recommended 7/10, but it's more like a seven and a half and, if this is your genre, round that right up to eight immediately. It's good stuff. I just wish I knew who was in the band so I could assign credit.

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