Zal Cleminson's Sin' dogs
- Review by Mike Ciresi
Loads of imagery, crushing riffs and progressive soundscapes come pouring out of this debut EP from the SinꞋdogs.
Zal Cleminson brings 40 odd years of experience to the table proving that things only get better with age. Some artists decide to rest on their laurels once they’ve reached their peak, but some choose to take a breather, come back, and reinvent themselves. Zal and crew have definitely chosen the latter with this offering.
Before I listened to this EP, I did a little research on Zal and found him to have a very interesting history. He has been involved in multiple music genres stretching from the early seventies to the new millennium. I won’t go into detail on his resume because I want to focus solely on this new SinꞋdogs release, but I will say that all of his past experiences seem to have been mixed together into one hard rock/metal grinder and churned one sublime piece of art.
Zal has surrounded himself with highly talented musicians that match his vision and technical ability. Each musician plays an important part in this release; they know when to play and how to play.
The theory that only the young can be relevant in the world of hard rock or heavy metal is really shattered into minuscule grains of salt with this release.
I am from the States; I haven’t had the experience of seeing these songs performed live on stage. If you have the opportunity to see SinꞋdogs, do yourself a favor and get to it. For now you’ll just have to follow me and my vision.
The scene begins with a serene piano theme, straight out of a late 70’s or early 80’s horror flick. Purple, green and blue lights hover over a sea of dry ice slowly creeping over the stage floor. A foreboding guitar lick slowly weaves its way through your ears, leading you straight into a passage to hell. The entire band enters and you feel like you were just hit on the head by an anvil. The duo lead guitar work is tastefully done and the rhythm section is holding things in place perfectly. It is an ominous soundscape: lush distortion pumping from the amps, thunderous roars from the bass and drums. Fire, lightning and rain swirl down from the dark and gloomy shadows above.
Now everything comes to an eerie silence and Zal begins to lament about malevolent possession. The lyrics create images that complement the instrumentation, they are very dark and to the point.
“Smelt the blood of Abraham and I took to my knees,
And I could tell he was coming,
There was blood on the breeze,
And Lucifer’s eyes they were laughing at me”.
The lyric ends and sure enough the devil exposes its horrific presence. For the chorus, the band enters with a punishing intensity making you feel like you were just knocked over by a heavy metal tsunami. I love the use of drop D tunings, harmonized leads, and the overwhelming power of the rhythm section. You can’t help but keep your fists raised to the sky and your feet pounding the ground…..constant goosebumps.
We now have an ethereal interlude complete with dream-like vocals and a haunting, yet beautiful combination of piano and strings. The bass and drums keep the heartbeat from stopping. It’s so important to have tranquil moments like this because when the music explodes again it is that much more intense. Another bonus with this song is that the quieter moments are intense as well, proving that it doesn’t have to be “dimed out” to get into your bones.
Enter the guitar solo, not too long and not filled with unnecessary notes. You get wicked harmonic picking, bends at the right moment and notes travelling fast and slow. The solo is being played over what sounds like “an evil funeral hymn”, once again by a bombastic rhythm section.
We are again treated to a chorus with Zal pleading for his “Hungry Heart”. With couple creative false endings and few more bars of mayhem went are sent adrift upon a sea of angelic acoustic guitar arpeggios and bass lines….the rainbow is still standing. The very last sound you hear is what I think sounds like a door closing behind you gently pushing you into oblivion.
Did our lost soul receive redemption or is the rainbow lying flat on the ground lifeless and colorless?
I’m ready to go on another sonic journey with SinꞋdogs. I’ve just hit the play button, let’s see where we go.
We are greeted with melancholy, a haunting sound, one that makes you feel caught between dusk and dawn. The vocal treatment is hazy and the keyboard enhances the nightmarish lyric
“Let’s meet outside in a daydream
Let’s meet outside in a blood stream
The power to act, the power to cry is so much prettier
Let’s meet outside in blood stream, let’s meet outside…”
Zal leaves out the last “blood stream”, at that moment I’m expecting the song to continue in a slow maudlin vein. This is not to be the case here, after a couple slinky lead licks we are thrust into a hard rock carnival show.
The main riff draws you in quickly; all of the musicians are tightly locked together. It immediately creates an image or a video in my brain, and when that happens to me, I know I’ve gotten hold something exceptional.
I’m picturing the band playing inside of a Big-Top at a huge carnival. Step inside and you’ll see hundreds of people stomping their feet, raising their fists in the air, bobbing their heads up and down not caring if every vertebra in their body in crushed.
The air is filled with smoke and sawdust and at each side of the stage we see: contortionists, fire-eaters, clowns and snake charmers. Overhead are wire walkers, trapeze artists, and twinkling lights.
A girl walks into the tent seemingly floating her way to the front of the stage and catches the eye of her seducer. Listen closely to the lyrics and let the games begin
Back to reality…
Every song worth its salt has one important ingredient: the “hook”. This song has one hell of a hook. It is found in the chorus and is inserted flawlessly throughout the song, leaving you wanting more and more.
This song has multiple parts that work so perfectly together; one minute you are redlined and the next you’re chilling out.
We are now brought back to a new section reminiscent of the introduction to the song, which I feel was a good move. It gives you a chance to take a couple of well-deserved breaths. Instinctively you know that it will not stay this way and that you will have to board the fast train once again.
Sure enough, the song starts building up its pace, the blood starts pumping faster and faster through your veins. You can sense that you are about to be thrust back into a power rage, you are all in for the rest of the ride.
Zal continues his plea as if it were a mantra. “Let’s meet outside in a blood stream” to the point where I don’t see how this girl could not succumb to his needs. Who knows, maybe she’s a mirage, just another element in his daydream? The song sounds like it could be on its way to a slow fade out but instead we are treated to an impressive “less is more guitar solo” and an anthemic ending.
The dream is over…for now.
The final song on this EP is an all-out four on the floor heavy metal fest. It has the classic 70’s/ 80’s intro which starts out all so mellow and then BANG! you are catapulted into a heavy metal blizzard of sound. The band is really letting loose, just wanting to play fast and hard. The lead guitar harmonies give the song a real gothic feel. The bass creates a real tight, but loose, groove and the drums are keep everything heavy and on track, they stomp, there are some really mental fills added when necessary. The overall sound for me is hard, mean and grungy. The instrumental and solo breaks come in at just the right time. The guitar solo is sleek and fast, you get your blazing speed plus some quick hold back notes, the solo doesn’t over stay its welcome. The lyrics (like the other two songs) are dealing with the Devil and preoccupation with the darker side of life. I love the line “Headstone made for two” because hey, misery loves company, right?
This song is the perfect for an encore; your adrenaline will be at its peak. A great band always leaves the stage leaving the audience begging for more.
This EP is a must have for your collection; if it’s any indication of what is to come from the SinꞋDogs the world of hard rock/heavy metal is going to be one hell of a better place to be. Hats off to the band for giving us our hard earned dollars’ worth. It’s theater at its best.
I’ve included a link for this song, check it out:
Or listen to it on Spotify:
Zal Cleminson – Lead Vox/Guitar
David Cowan – Keys / Backing Vox
William McGonagle – Guitar
Nelson McFarlane – Bass
Scott Cowie – Drums