DuelIn their own words, Duel are lovers of all things classic. Shunning a more current sound, this Texan four piece, containing two former members of Scorpion Child have embraced the sounds of the late 60’s and early 70’s classic rock and proto-metal greats along with adding some dirty blues feel and southern and stoner grooves to create quite an interesting sound. Citing inspirations from the likes of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and copious amounts of Mary Jane, let’s see if the dead are scared of this debut album.

Going with the title track for the opening number, “Fears Of The Dead” opens up with a real hook laden classic sounding rock riff. With equal amounts of rock and dirty, raw blues in the sound and delivery, it sounds great, especially with the raw vocal delivery. With an almost bouncy bluesy shuffle providing the backdrop, the band are a tight unit. Everything flows fine and nothing sounds out of place. Real expressive solos which just scream Stevie Ray Vaughan in parts are followed by some real dark and murky Black Sabbath Style riffs halfway through before it brings back the lively shuffle for the final run in. It’s a great opener and from here, it just gets better.

“This Old Crow” has some great clean vocal delivery which really helps paint a picture of what is going on in the lyrics for you. Combining this with a chug-shuffle styled musical feel leads to a great psych-come-bluesy sound which is hypnotic at times. Packed with great riffs, this is definitely one for the rhythm enthusiasts as the work under the solo is superb. “The Kraken” is as monstrous as its subject. A well-paced intro with some great composition musically paves way for a classic bluesy feeling verse which explodes to life during the chorus with a real punchy feel to it. As the track progresses, Duel once again dip into the Iommi styled sound, darkening the song completely, making it heavier and more murky bringing in that stoner-doom feel which is similar to the ‘Master Of reality’ era Sabbath and the solo which joins this has plenty of flair to it, delivered with real attitude and bite in it.

“Fell To The Earth” brings back the dirty and raw blues shuffle feel with the bounce-like groove again but a lot dirtier sounding than the previous blues-boogie styled tracks and to cap it all, there is a fantastic Blue Öyster Cult styled ripping solo which leads to the track really coming to life near the end with even more BÖC sounding leads. Just a shame I couldn’t find any cowbell in there! “On The Edge” has a more rocking feel to it. Lively in its delivery with more kick to the vocal delivery, it has a sense of familiarity to it, like you think you may have heard it before but cannot quite place where or who it sounds like (Answers on a postcard or in the comments please!). It’s a lot harder in terms of the rock sound compared to the previous tracks which embraced the blues and stoner and it makes for a good change up.

“Electricity” comes in hot with a drum roll and a real rock n roll riff which then brings back the bluesy undertone to the sound, along with great work from the guitars. The vocals dip heavily into the psych side of the band’s sound, delivered cleanly and they have a rather hypnotic effect. Combining this with the solid musical delivery which has ever so subtle shifts in the pace of the delivery, its one you can just zone out to until the 2:30 point where the fuzz kicks in. With that thick, dirty fuzz sound on the guitars, it gets a lot louder and more attitude packed. With a sleazy sound and feel, combined with some deep and clear bass and real solid drum work, it leads to a Thin Lizzy styled solo which really hits the spot! “When The Pigs Are Fed” keeps the bluesy feel to it, but unlike the hypnotic and slow psych side of the previous track, this one has all the raw and dirty feel of the stoner side. A great sounding chord progression with a lively pace and strong vocal delivery pulls you in and round the 2:40 point, things get murky and trippy again. Hypnotic vocals and low register dirty riffs bring shades of the more psychedelic side of Orange Goblin to mind and as the solo comes in, it sparks to life, getting a lot wilder and the riffs get just as wild too, setting everything up for the final track.

“Locked Outside” closes the album and it’s the longest track on the release, coming in at over 7 minutes. With a rich and deep bass intro, joined by more Iommi-esque riff work and some dirty sounding, bitchin’ blues lead work, it draws from across the album, packaging it all nicely for the listener. The hypnotic vocals return once again over the moody and powerful sounding proto-metal riffs and as the track goes, the vocals ‘seem’ to grow in presence in the sound (then again, I could have been hypnotised, who knows?). It gets lively with some good riffs and a little harmony section before fully embracing the slow stoner-psych vibe with a hugely atmospheric and surreal, Pink Floyd styled break section with very smooth delivery in the music. Round 4:45, the lead comes in and it has that Hendrix feel to it (Think Hey Joe’s solo!). With rich wah pedal tones, some big bends and quick triplets to spice it up, the real warped sound gives it a great vibe before it cleans up with some acoustic guitars before the false finish – the Iommi riffery returns, bringing back the rawness and the bite and a more chaotic feeling solo wraps the album up.

Overall, Duel have come up with a classic right here. It has the proportions of blues, psych, stoner and classic rock/proto-metal to a pretty damn good level, leading to the well rounded album which is interesting and mesmerizing from start to finish. “Fears Of The Dead” has it all, whether you want to kick back, relax and zone out, or get your rock on or everything in between those two points, this album has it. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn close! This is a must hear for 2016!

(9/10 Fraggle)