[Album Review] The Dirty Nil- Higher Power
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)


Release Date: February 26th, 2016
Label: Dine Alone Records

If one were to scour into The Dirty Nil’s jam room, the sight of wrestling DVDs and Tony Hawk Pro Skater video games lining a media stand would be likely. Two words can describe the sounds within this Hamilton band’s Higher Power: kayfabe and kickflips. The former, for those who don’t know wrestling lingo, is maintaining a staged act’s look to be true, even though audiences know it’s fake. Sometimes the record will actually throw a nasty punch, but that’s all to get adrenaline pumping. Simultaneously, the album’s energy can come from the soundtracks of the skateboarding gems from yesteryear. Higher Power feels like the offspring of its punk brethren, but its lust for delivering pain in its ring is how it differs from its supposed brothers.

The band’s video for “No Weaknesses” might be hilarious in tone, yet it really does set the rough ground that Dirty Nil land their black eyes on. At face value, there’s the quality of the underdog in them, the kind in an unlucky waterboy watching athletes tackle each other. Yet when these punks go heavy, there’s no feigning gritted teeth or ferocious growls. Everyone goes nuts, feeling like they could break script at any second. They don’t, and that’s perhaps one of the more enamouring parts of Higher Power. Sure, they’re free to lose their minds live, but on this record, parts move in tandem to create maximal chaos. Sadly, some of this chaos is muffled by a production quality that could have been worked on.

But wrestling can be muffled too, what with fans’ chanting and all the nonsense that could go on, giving this compressed sound the benefit of a doubt. There’s spirit and personality when Dirty Nil imagine matches between celebs and Jesus (“No Weaknesses”). “Wrestle Yu to Hüsker Dü,” with its inspiration in the title, has its level of denial that allows listeners to cheer on a face-to-face battle between exes and current partners. And “Lowlives” is always in a combative stance, awaiting for the inevitable mosh that would occur with each metal-inspired beat. It’s also the first track that manages to draw blood by being so heavy, along with the thrashing punk of “Fugue State” and the near-sludgy bends of “Helium Dreamer.” These are the sounds that are ready to blossom within a forthcoming release, but in their semi-pop-punk presence, they still find their spark, one mostly rooted in the act of skitching cars and grinding the establishment’s rails.

Each strum Dirty Nil feel comfortable with is heavy and distorted, like the friction of wheels on steel. Their metal sides lashes with darker chords, but their lighter punk element is filled with major notes that would make New Found Glory fans jam at burrito bars (“Zombie Eyed,” “Friends In The Sky”). Vocally, Luke Bentham and Dave Nardi string their lines in ways that would make Jimmy Eat World proud (“Wrestle Yu To Hüsker Dü”). “Bury Me At The Rodeo,” the closer of the record, holds the punk rebellion against the nine-to-five work week, pitting it against a life alone in the mountains. While the bleeps of feedback that spritz the album occasionally are arbitrary, one-noted, and a point of irritation, and the contrast between light and hard sounds can be contentious, bits of reflection highlight that Dirty Nil still know what they’re doing.

Perhaps the line to sum it all is “Got a temper / And an eye for truth” from the final song. All short fuses should be looked after, but Dirty Nil want people to know that whether they’re looked at as the underdog or the uncontrolled brawler, the band will always fight for something. Their sound, though muffled in quality, is a great balance for fighters and, surprisingly, lovers. The latter will still have to face sweaty wrestlers beating each other silly in a chaotic, sound-heavy ring.