The Dirty Nil – ‘Higher Power’

By Lew Trott

Dreamt up in the small Canadian town of Dundas, Ontario, The Dirty Nil have assembled a record that is equal parts rock n roll, punk rock and even a dab of indie for good measure. Eclectic for its entire 27-minute running time, ‘Higher Power’ is a stonewall marvel.

Debut full lengths have a tendency to display fragility and naivety, wherever it maybe, you can bank on a few moments of unease or inexperience. Not on ‘Higher Power’. The first single is aptly named ‘No Weaknesses’, upon hearing the album that name turned out to be a fact. High in spirit the track sets off with a team of dizzying riffs. Accompanying the riff party there is a great big chorus that’d feel right at home on a festival mainstage, just as well as it does at The Black Heart in Camden. Constructing the sublime yet valiant is a quality that guitarist/singer Luke Bentham possesses in abundance. Although dropping the music video back in November meant a few agonizing months in waiting, don’t worry people this LP is certainly worth the wait.

Occasionally the three piece ditch their punk laden rock n roll swagger for some straight up old school hardcore, ‘Fugue State’ appears to be a homage to bands like hardcore pioneers Black Flag. The song itself is named after a rare psychiatric condition which temporarily enforces amnesia. Dark. Kicking and screaming for its entirety, the band initiate forty-five seconds of savagery. Everything goes double time. Leaving you suitably shaken, the album journeys on. Fourth song ‘Lowlives’ employees a similar take on hardcore, chaotic to a lesser degree but always extreme, the rumbling basslines drive everything.

“I don’t care about your man, oh yeah. Fuck him.” I’m still none the wiser to the premise of this song, perhaps it’s about a failed relationship, maybe one of the guys was married to Bob Mould. Who knows? All I know is that ‘Wrestle Yü to Hüsker Dü’ has a bunch of thunderous riffs, all of which, especially at high volumes, do incite slow headbangs. Mountainous drum hits are basically tiny explosions, right on the money every time, they’re constantly shuddering.

As a result of Ty Segal-esque vocals you are immediately forced into a state of disorientation, confused but glued to every drum hit and off the wall vocal line you can’t help but hit repeat. I did, quite a few times as well.

Altogether easier to swallow and perhaps the only time the album drops from utterly outstanding to just really good, ‘Bury Me At The Rodeo’, as you’d expect after the previous ten tracks, does have moments of sheer intensity and aggression, but for the most part its more subtle. By no means sluggish, the subtlety comes in a more accomplished form, the chorus, “Bury me at the rodeo show, the only home I’ll ever know”. Baffling yes, brilliant yes. In a haze of broken strings and the comforting yet chilling sound of feedback, the albums ends. I’d be very surprised if you hear many better debut albums this year.

Three more album reviews for you

LIVE: Underoath / Parting Gift @ Electric Ballroom, Camden

LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival 2019

LIVE: Neighbourhood Weekender 2019