How do you define Drunk Dad‘s Ripper Killer? A band with a silly name that potentially points towards a troubled past. An album title that seems obsessed with destruction but could also just mean ‘really cool.’ Furious vocals, heavy riffs, insane drumming. They go beyond Nirvana’s grungy dissatisfaction, and swagger, Swans-like, into discomfort. There is an uncanniness to Drunk Dad‘s blending of different generic ideas. They might call it ‘fuck-you-all-wave’ and ‘noise rock’ on their bandcamp, but Ripper Killer convey both an energy and an atmosphere far beyond that which these labels suggest.
If you investigate Drunk Dad, sooner or later you will come across the uncanny similarities between the vocals of singer Dave Herrin and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. While I certainly won’t be the first to refute this apt comparison, another suggests itself: Michael Gira of Swans. Light A Fire‘s mantra, with Herrin’s increasingly agitated shouting above Jose De Lara’s discordant guitars, Anthony Ritchey’s buzz-saw bass, and Joseph Naylor’s hard-hitting percussion, smacks of Swans. It reeks of disgust with humanity, creating that same uncomfortable, trance-like state that emerges from The Seer ‘s primal rhythms.
Returning to the grunge, opener 5 Pack perfectly demonstrates Drunk Dad‘s manipulation of the genre. Opening with feedback and noise before diving into a lurching series of distorted power chords, the track brings to mind Bleach-era Nirvana, or even The Foo Fighters’ heavier moments.
It’s aggressive, rather than being brutal. Full of rock ‘n’ roll swagger, not straightforward metal ‘heaviness.’ Naylor’s drums, though overly heavy on the snare, become a pummelling force that injects a relentless hardcore energy into the mix. Meanwhile, Herrin’s screams are dangerously unhinged, every shout releasing years of rage and aggression.
Ripper Killer can be split down the middle, divided into energy and atmospheric languidness. True, the two halves mingle with each other constantly, but there’s a definite and recurring change in mood from, say, the rapid-fire percussion of Whiskey Liver and the title-track’s plucked guitars. The latter dances between creating eeriness and soaring beauty, with chugged guitars steadily building the track into a trance-inducing march. S.O.U. uses slow, sludgy guitars juxtaposed with Naylor’s furious drum rolls. With increasingly tensely delivered lyrics like ‘we become one, share in this blood,’ the song becomes a ritual. Lying at the album’s centre, surrounded by faster tracks, S.O.U. is an uncanny break in tone that redefines the album as an even more sinister affair.
However, there is energy even in the sluggish passages, and indeed energy is the record’s defining feature. Though Ripper Killer exhibits slower and more sedate guitar-work, it’s framed by a battery of drums and insane guitar soloing. Herrin’s vocals, at times verging on spoken word, retain a sprechgesang quality that amplifies the album’s explosive tension. Drunk Dad always seem to be losing their shit. The punk riffery of both Life’s Work and Light A Fire (in which Herrin’s vocals are so frayed that I feel I’m watching the band live) forces you to pump your fist or attempt some mad skate-board trick. Ripper Killer is an album of absolute chaos, throwing so many tempos at their audience that disorientation is inevitable.
Though Drunk Dad veer wildly amongst styles and tempos, there is a sense that they are searching for a disconcerting effect stronger than they achieve. The juxtaposition of De Lara’s manic guitar licks with Herrin’s Gira-esque incantation is certainly unsettling, but perhaps because of this meshing together of influences Drunk Dad aren’t inventing anything so wholly new as to be completely alien. The final track, Worthless, consists of static, crashes and what could be a heavily distorted black metal howl. Again, part of its aim might be to unsettle the listener, but the noise isn’t quite harsh or foreign enough to fully achieve this. Drunk Dad go far beyond their influences, but they also don’t manage to concoct something wholly original.
Ripper Killer is an album that brings a thousand different influences and smashes them chaotically together, somehow forming harmony. Drunk Dad expertly conjure exasperation, disgust and anger in equal measure, making this release a relentless assault from beginning to end. They bombard you with great riffs, eerie atmospheres and general ferocity with such intensity that you are left dazed and confused. In short, it’s great stuff.
Scribed by: Will Beattie