Formed on the first breath of 2013, French band Dope Out has earned a potent reputation in their homeland for their aggressive and stylish heavy rock sound. Now with the release of their highly enjoyable second album, Scars & Stripes, they are threatening to provoke the same kind of attention and support on a much broader scale.
Musically, the Paris quartet merges flavoursome traits from classic and hard rock with more punk, metal, and stoner essences for a proposition which feels familiar yet equally fresh and adventurous. The band has honed their sound and invention across a debut EP, All Hopes Inside, released that first year, and the well-received debut album Bad Seeds of 2014. The years between albums has seen Dope Out breach another level and maturity in their music; an evolution making Scars & Stripes a potently flavoursome proposal.
The four tracks making up the Lady Misfits EP which came out January 2016 made a tasty teaser of things to come, its potential straight away confirmed as Scars & Stripes hits ears with its title track. A lone bassline provides the first lure, its throaty twang soon joined by wiry riffs and rolling rhythms as the song brings its appetising bait all together for a predacious stroll awash with flaming melody. Once settled, the grouchy lead vocals of guitarist Stoner step up with attitude the fore, their irritated air matched by the hooks and grooves lining the slice of punk infused rock ‘n’ roll. Varied twists and turns follow to add to the captivation of the strong start to Scars & Stripes; a base the album only grows bolder from.
The following Dive is a just as appealing proposition, matching its predecessor’s success with its fiery web of grooves and enterprise spun by lead guitarist Crash over a rhythmic trespass driven by the jabbing beats of Mad and Doc’s heavy tempting bassline. As with the first, the song sets the tone of the album without exposing its deepest layers of imagination, that discovery really beginning from The Freakshow, which follows, onwards but still inciting a keen appetite for what is on offer so far.
The third song swiftly hits the spot, its initial pyre of sonic taunting mouth-watering but only added to by the rhythmic rumble which is soon aligned to a broadening design of flavours and invention. Once hitting its resourceful stride, the track prowls like a mix of Dope and Marilyn Manson while its melodic blaze and earthy air has Gruntruck like hues to it. It is compelling stuff, only increasing its hold on ears as it twists and turns with imagination fuelled confrontation, blues grooves and steely tendrils increasing the fun.
Lady Misfits makes a more even tempered entrance, Stoner’s mellow tones joined by a just as relaxed melody as rhythms saunter with similar restraint. It is all a build-up though to a blaze of a chorus which after searing and pleasuring the senses slips back into the highly enjoyable calm, erupting with greater temptation throughout as the track continues to grow and reveal more of its captivating character and resourcefulness.
By now, the band and album has the lid open on their boldest adventure, next up Clan Of Bats bearing a spicy slab of imposing blues hued rock with an infectiousness breeding a chorus which is one of the truly memorable moments within the release. It is also the moment when you feel Dope Out really get to grips with their craft and imagination, the album having a real swagger to its presence and almost mischievous ambition.
The snarling rock ‘n’ roll of next up Shooting Gun keeps attention and pleasure high, its catchy swing and assertive intensity a potent mix before Nose White entangles ears in woozy blues grooves and stalking rhythms as vocals mix belligerence and invitation in their commanding persuasion. Carrying a touch of Black Stone Cherry and Hardcore Superstar to its body, only concentrated pleasure arises with it especially as its shadows darken and its tone and sinews become more invasive, luring the listener into its heart and the waiting devilry of Balls To The Wall. Another major highlight of the album, the song is a beast of almost violent rhythmic intent and sonic trespass, the guitars searing ears with their hook laden melodic flames whilst vocals scowl as the heart of the track erupts.
The album is brought to a just as feverish close by firstly Again, a song with infectiousness in its DNA and blues rapacity in its veins. As many of its predecessors, it has feet twitching and hips swinging with increasing relish, exhausting and pleasuring the body ready for the mellow caresses of closing encounter Soulmate, an acoustic reflection playing like a warm and increasingly enthusiastic night cap on a boozy rock ’n’ roll session.
It is hard to say that Scars & Stripes is overly unique yet has plenty of new elements to provide a truly fresh and increasingly enjoyable encounter; a proposition quite possibly coaxing a great more of the world to listen to Dope Out.
Scars & Stripes is digitally out now.
Pete RingMaster 21/03/2017
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