Making a sophomore record is a a tricky bit of witchcraft, especially when your first effort was really well received. Dirt Cannon‘s first full length, Get Beaten, was a breath of beer soaked, riff-tastic fresh air. Melody! Proper song writing! Groove! Service to the riff as opposed to reliance on the breakdown! It made this jaded crust/ d-beat worshipper believe that modern metalcore could actually be worth a listen! However, I had to approach Dirt Cannon’s new record Tough Love with a bit of trepidation; the first record succeeded greatly in comparison to the current crop of genre contemporaries, but how would “Tough Love” stack up to the band’s earlier work?
First track “The Next In Line” does an excellent job of starting the party with a satisfying, up tempo riff. What is immediately apparent is the upgrade in recording quality; Get Beaten‘s mid-range fuzziness is replaced with an incredibly satisfying clarity and crispness allowing the listener to fully appreciate Tough Love‘s intricacies and nuances. This new sharpness really allows drummer Olivier Gamache-Lalonde to shine. It was clear from the first record that the guy can play, but this enhanced sound quality shines a light on Gamache-Lalonde’s tasteful choices when it comes to building the beats. Sure, he occasionally reaches into a familiar bag of tricks, but most of these tracks contain various fills or patterns that demonstrate a desire to avoid taking the easy way out.
What’s interesting is Dirt Cannon’s progression as song writers. To be sure, Tough Love, like its predecessor, is a southern metalcore record clearly informed by the work of Every Time I Die, but while their earlier work seemed to only dip a toe into the pure stoner/riff rock well, Tough Love sees the band dive in head first. The opening riff of “Come Hell” is pure, thick, slow burn NOLA slime that would be out of place on a EYEHATEGOD jam. “Hold Me Down” almost completely abandons metalcore in favor of a pure riff rock reminiscent of “Black Blood”-era Bionic . I’m a fan of this direction because the riff is where Dirt Cannon are their strongest and it really puts guitarists Dominic Boisclair and Maxime Desjardins’ sizeable chops on display.
There is a little more meat to the vocal performances this time around. Bédard and Boisclair’s bad cop/ good cop trade off remains strong, but while Boiclair’s clean vocal range has improved somewhat, it would have been cool to hear Bédard explore a wider array of vocal rhythmic patterns and tones, as there is a tendency for the lyrics to sound the same and blend together across the record. As well, more vocal variation on Bédard’s part would lend the songs additional emotional depth.
On whole, Tough Love is a nice evolution from Get Beaten. It doesn’t see the group go into completely new territory, but rather sees the exploration of some new and very good ideas. While I doubt it is what they want, Dirt Cannon have the chops to grow beards, wear all flannel and go 100% Blurton.
Written by Jesse Gainer