Some combinations are just inevitably fantastic. Peanut butter and jelly. Chocolate cookies and milk. Black Sabbath and Clutch. With vocalist Neil Fallon and drummer Vinny Appice from the previously mentioned two bands joined by Fu Manchu's Brad Davis and The Company Band's Dave Bone, the result is exactly what you'd expect. As these four members come from groups that all relatively share similar classic rock/metal characteristics, this project could easily have been a grand hit in the 70's.
Being that most collaborative groups pull influence from every part of the sum, this LP certainly contains properties from each puzzle piece. I will say that Neil Fallon's vocals are so indistinct that the majority of this album is hard to differentiate from what he normally puts out. Therefore, any Clutch fans out there are bound to eat this up. Granted, I wouldn't declare this to be a carbon copy of Psychic Warfare by any means as the musical aspect differs enough to make a significant shift.
First of all, the drumming is really phenomenal. Each fill is high enough in the mix that you can feel each snare hit. While this may not be as obvious on every track, you can definitely feel the percussion in opening track "Hung on the Rocks." I did notice the song structure and riffs felt a tad mechanical, yet this concern was dismissed with the following pieces. "Our Only Master" and "The Bats (Are Hungry Tonight)" have more of the raucous swagger I was expecting. Considering the predominant jam element that these musicians have held in their main bands, I am quite pleased with how this trait this was included without losing the consistent catchy appeal and altogether allowing each song to have the capacity for some light moshing beside singing along.
A good chunk of the remaining tracks like "Church of the Tooth" and "What Manner of Bliss" drag a tad on the slow side, but if anyone was to deliver downtempo hard rock successfully, it would be this rhythm section. "Orb of Empire" comes very close to Clutch especially with Neil's sassy vocal attacks accompanying a bluesy groove. To go even further on this topic, I think it is important to address the lyrical content as Fallon has had quite a history and reputation for zany lyrics. I wouldn't have noticed if I didn't read up on it, but apparently the record contains a subtle concept which refers to the supernatural fates that the survivors of a 19th century shipwreck encounter. While an interesting one, I wouldn't say the lyrical concept here is the most engaging aspect of the record. Fortunately, there are plenty of bold and memorable choruses staying true to the signature Neil Fallon style that will keep you hooked.
I assume this project will likely be a one time thing and in all honesty, that's fine. Fallon, Appice, Davis, and Bone accomplished what they set out do with Dunsmuir. Just like many one-and-done groups such as Mad Season or Nailbomb, there feels no need for any sequel or follow-up to such a satisfying release. They came, they rocked, they conquered. As for constructive criticism, I wouldn't say any risks were taken, however I doubt such a concern is necessary when most music of this style normally does not possess the drive to push boundaries. Overall, the album is a well-executed display of hard-edged classic rock with modern production and definitely worth a listen.