WORDS: Alex Piercy
London based hard rock/metal band DAMN DICE certainly have had their work cut out for them over the last few months. Not only did they land themselves a slot at the infamous Camden Rocks Festival (supporting surprise headliners BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE) but they have also been busy preparing for the release of their first full length album The Great Unknown, an album ripe with extremely potent and powerful guitar riffs, that will have fans smashing their fist and heads for weeks to come.
Delving briefly into the story behind the album, The Great Unknown has been no small feat for the band to complete, especially following the tragic loss of stand in producer and friend Akis Kollaros earlier in 2015. From the first few seconds of opener Power, it is clear to the listener that this is going to be a well-polished and finely tuned production. The transition from the fluctuating initial instrumentals into the drop is executed expertly, and the double kick pedal begs the full focus of the listener to invest themselves fully into the music.
Diehard fans who have followed the band’s journey since their formation in 2011 will notice a large portion of the tracks featured on The Great Unknown are returning favourites from their 2013 release Wild ‘N’ Ready, however it would be unfair to dismiss this choice as recycling their back catalogue to increase the length of the album. Many of these, notably the track Down benefit immediately from the improved production values, cranking the volume to 11 and breathing new life into what were already solid efforts from the London quartet.
Their sleaze rock image may have been toned down over the years but the intensity surely hasn’t with DAMN DICE displaying a heavier side to their music on this record. This results in a much more credible and professional edge to the album, such as the opening of track Driven, blasting through the speakers with a sheer force comparable to FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH classic, Under And Over It. At the midpoint power ballad Words offers a welcome diversity from the mayhem and shows us this is a band who know how to write a variety of guitar lead tracks correctly, showing restraint and allowing space in the mix to complement each individual band member, freeing the numerous impressive solos on the record to really shine through.
This is consistent throughout the instrumentals on The Great Unknown but sadly lacking in the vocals provided by Alex Davidson who spends the majority of the album in the higher end of his vocal range. By no means is Davidson a poor vocalist, his ability to even accomplish this range shows he is definitely the right man to hold the microphone in DAMN DICE but the lyrics are just a bit too safe to leave any lasting impression, and the tracks would benefit from him experimenting more with the low ends of his vocals. During the opening acoustic section of Home we hear Davidson jump prematurely from what seemed to be a more restrained delivery, into notes that make his performance peak rather than soar, a technique that would be more effective if delivered later once the track had progressed enough dynamically. This is a recurring issue that creates a void in the mix between himself and his other band members, often distracting the listener from other aspects of the tracks that better deserve their attention.
As they climb further up the bills The Great Unknown will be seen as a crucial rung on the ladder for DAMN DICE. If they take the right steps forward from this early stage in their career they possess the potential to build upon this impressive debut to produce something truly special. There will be camps who will still appreciate the distinctive vocals provided by Davidson on the record, but next time they hit the studio, with a little experimentation on his end, more listeners will be able to connect with the material allowing the band to gain the attention and fanbase they deserve.
The Great Unknown is set for release on August 24th 2015.