Zal Cleminson's Sin' dogs
Review by Mike Ciresi
Zal Cleminson: Lead Vocals/Guitar
David Cowan: Keyboards/Backing Vocals
Nelson McFarlane: Bass Guitar
Willie McGonagle: Guitar/Backing Vocals
Scott Cowie: Drums
Can lightning strike twice in the world of music? The answer, my friend, is a resounding “Yes!”
Zal Cleminson and his band of merry men have released a follow up to the teaser “EP”, which contains nothing less than a mind-blowing batch of new material.
They say at the end of the rainbow you’ll find a pot of gold. If you follow this rainbow the Sinꞌdogs have (sent into the sky) to the end, you’ll find platinum.
The music from Volume One touches on multiple genres from Rock to Metal to Progressive. Each song is laden with cinematic soundscapes, dark & witty lyrics, dynamics, and hooks that you will never be able to get out of your head.
Zal has 40-odd years of experience and has woven it all together to make “Volume One” of the best new releases of the year. The Sinꞌdogs work together with immaculate precision. The production and engineering on this recording make it so the listener gets a full-dimensional experience.
The band formed one year ago and by listening to Sinꞌdogs you would think that they would have been playing for years together. Zal seems to have taken not just his musical experiences, but all of his life experiences into account for this other-worldly recording. It has been a long time since a great theatrical band has come to town, so I ask that you invite Sinꞌdogs with open arms.
This recording is not just 10 songs; no, it is an event. Pay your admission and enjoy the show. I guarantee that you will regain your breath after the final notes of the finale fade to black.
Let’s open the cellophane and listen to what lies within, shall we?
You are welcomed back into Zal’s world by what sounds like an angry pack of locusts swarming above your head. In a moment’s notice you are forced to the ground by a thunderous roar created by the heaviest guitar riff one could create. The sound is earth shattering. The underlying synth effect gives the impression that molten metal is slowly seeping through the cracks created by the weight of the sound.
Enter the rhythm section, which creates an image of a demon, metal machine, anti-Christ prowling the earth, looking to destroy and devour anything that gets in its path. The slithery lead guitar is wrapping itself around the minds and bodies of the unsuspecting souls that are about to be left behind. Left behind in world that will only be one of filth, corrosion, regret and disease.
The chorus has one hell of a great hook, and as Zal belts out “Yawm Harmjidun” you can picture him standing a top of a mountain while a firestorm is swirling around him.
The lyrics are very clever. Zal creates a puzzle that you will need to piece together in order to understand the mystery behind them.
Throughout the entire song you know something beyond your control is coming for you. The song has the power of an atomic bomb; you’d swear on the chorus that there are a hundred guitars crying out at the same time. You just can’t escape this thing. This is what makes Sindogs for me; they could light the entire city of Glasgow from the sheer power of their music.
While listening to this song your adrenaline will be pumping overtime; you’ll be out of breath at the end. Hopefully you will rise from the ashes and be spared on Armageddon Day.
This song opens up with a monk like chant and the sound of wind chimes that seem to mimic the illusion that you are alone on a body of water, calm as holy water in a cathedral. There is an angelic feeling going on here with the sound of a soft, balmy breeze moving over you. The acoustic guitar arpeggio seems to be guiding you through the water; one gets the feeling that looking back is not an option anymore. The bass guitar is providing a beautiful layer of fog upon the horizon where the river turns into the sea. Enter a heavenly, yet distressed vocal that begins telling you the tale of a time that is no longer. “The Govan Boy, closed the gates one last time” Zal laments further, “looked down the river, what did he see, the last of an industry, sail away” For a couple more minutes the music keeps you mesmerized; making you truly believe that you are living this life. The calming effect comes to an abrupt end with the lyric “Stands in line at the end of the road”
The sonic serenity is shattered by a tornadic rainstorm of distorted riffed out guitar work. The drums pounding the sound into your eardrums like hammers to an anvil. Zal’s vocal becomes more pained making you understand just how dire the situation has become: “When the timbers groaned, the chains rolled down,” he cries.
Amongst the bombastic rhythm section comes a certainly unexpected “progressive sounding” synth arpeggio, which works amazingly well. The arpeggio could have easily done on the guitar. It really shows that the creativity came from outside the box.
Then the solo guitar comes in which lifts you off the ground, keeps you circling the sky through the last burst of color and hope that “the boy” is clinging to. The angelic sounds from the beginning of the tale fall from the sky like a warm blanket which lies over a world to be left behind forever. We know this by the spine-chilling cry of the wind at the end of the tale.
And the final lyrics read like an epitaph: “To a world that grew on the backs of all those Govan Boys”
This song starts out in mysterious fashion. The gentle, ominous guitar riff is reminiscent of a theme you’d here in an epic James Bond film. As you may have already surmised Zal’s lyrics tend to rail against the injustices one can suffer from following the good book. So the mystery here is why the subject in the song is asking for redemption?
“Can I be yours again, in light of all my sins?”
“Can I take back time, in spite of all my crimes?”
The ever unswerving rhythm section ushers in a psychedelic wave of sound. that gently pushes you to a door that must be opened. You are now entering the High Kirk of Glasgow and begin hearing the saintly chants from the angels. There are a lot of sonic elements going on all at once here to create the gleaming imagery. You hear echoing chimes, swirling winds and a soothing guitar lick that weaves its way through everything. The audio, to me, suggests thousands of angels and colored orbs circling the ceiling, then moving slowly to the ground and around its inhabitant.
The guitar solo moves you deliberately through the song with long dreamlike notes. There are faster paced notes too, but all is kept in a very hypnotic state. The instrumentation behind the solo is doing a fantastic job of holding the listener to the lush heavenly atmosphere.
After the solo we find the verse to be more intense that the first. The feel of the instruments are really pushing you, the chord changes will give you goosebumps and a sense of rapture. The guitar works in unison with the vocal chants, giving you a sense that the answer to all secrets is near.
The outro to the song is mantra-like. The drums and bass are keeping your heart pounding. The keyboards and the vocal are magnetic. The guitars in this section are drenched in darkly colored tones. I wish that this section was longer, it’s too good to end. This is theater at its best.
The intro to this song has a moroccon flavored sway about it. You might even say a delta bluesy glide going on at the same time; which in Zal’s world is completely possible. The guitar sound at first is Dobro-like and then turns into a heavy downpour of distorted guitar bliss. The guitar harmony laid over the riff creates the sonic illusion of a thousand stringed instruments. The snake like groove makes you feel as if you are walking alone in a vast desert as the sun is rising.
Ushering the verse we have a lilting piano line and flamenco tinged guitar work. The placid instrumentation against the lyric is contradictive: “Turned in my sleep” and “As I lay beneath the moon, in the arms of silent rage.”
Immediately after we have blood curdling guitar work and a crushing drum/bass combination, all of which seem to open up the ground, the gateway to hell. There is a pizzicato string effect in the middle of all this that could be impersonating angels trying to seal the vat of burning ground or blood rain falling from the blackened sky. Judging by the lyric “There’s no one left to shine a light on the promised land” I would say it’s the latter.
The guitar solo contains only a few notes and is very effective. They are stretched out in a wicked manner that put you into a hypnotic state. This proves that you don’t need a million notes to make a heavy solo. I have always admired Sinꞌdogs for their gift of knowing dynamics.
There is one more verse and we now know that God has let down our subject:
“I’m better off in hell, it’s the place that’s meant for me”
“All the hate and all the blood, takes away the Magic Love…..again and again”
The outro is full of imagery, even without the lyrics, the sound of every instrument makes you think of doom and an evilness taking over the world. The guitar harmony stings and rages on. The Moroccan flavored rhythm section pushes harder and harder as we see our victim marching tirelessly through the sand of the desert. In a moment’s notice the acoustic guitar plays the final chord. He is at the gate, and like a mirage, disappears into the black night.
I highly recommend this album to anyone who wants to be entertained by intelligent lyrics, cinematic atmosphere, and highly gifted musicians. Congratulations on a job well done to the production and engineering staff.
Complete Track Listing:
1. Armageddon Day 6. Lachrymator
2. Guns of God 7. Evolution Road
3. Magic Love 8. Stick Man
4. Euphoria 9. Govan Boy
5. I.O.U. 10. Still Breathing
The Sinꞌdogs are currently on tour, make sure to get to a show and be ready for the ride of your life.