Black Dog Howl - 'Psalm'
Almost one year ago we introduced you to Black Dog Howl, a Danish / Iranian duo, when they released a single called 'Swamp Glow', and we're delighted that they've now released an album, entitled 'Psalm', which we've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. Black Dog Howl with their 'southern - gothic' and 'persian pop noir' style of music might, in some ways, sound like an unusual sounding band, but with influences from the likes of Nick Cave and Tom Waits, and with their laid back melodic style, their music is actually really easy to listen to. The album is full of dark, but highly entertaining stories, of the 'people who didn't make it', with the premise that ”We’re not evil people – but we’ve seen a lot of evil going on'', being a central theme.
The album opens with 'Low Moon', and the quietest of acoustic guitar opens, that broadens with rhythmic drumming. But the album really gets moving with 'Still Around', and the first of the 3 main reasons why this album works so well is easily apparent - firstly the tracks are just built around these great melodies and musical themes, but secondly those melodies seem to work so well when sung by Mazdak Khosravi, which with his deep but always tuneful gothic vocals. The third becomes apparent in the next song 'Hard to Love', which offer the quite inspired lyrics - 'She's a good clean girl, she likes sandwiches and milk, she showers every day / I've seen so myself from down the drain', and you really have to listen to the whole track to get the picture of the suburban good girl gone bad.
'Palestine' is an even more thought provoking track, raises the question of whether political institutions should define how individual see their identity, and sense of belonging to a certain a country - all through the story of the murdered 'Rabbi Joe', who wants his body to be buried in Palestine. 'Basement' packs so much in at pace (both musically and lyrically) in its 2 minutes 30 seconds, you really need to listen for yourself, but tells of Iranian exiles discussing Ayatollah Khomeini: ''They're talking bout a man - who didn't feel a thing / so while weeping rosewater, they hail the King".
'Blackheart' was a pre-release single, and its an easy listen, but again it's the lyrics which probably make the track, whilst 'Warlike Man' is 6 minutes long, with a pace of a solemn walk, and there are some lovely touches in the writing, particularly the piano interventions, and possible a string instrument hidden in there somewhere too. 'Their House' sounds more classically Americana, with a violin leading the main theme, and in 'Leave the Light On' we're offered just guitar and voice, demonstrating just how powerful and convincing the vocals of both Mazdak Khosravi and Signe Møller Rosendal are, once the songs are stripped back to a bare minimum.
I was always looking forward to getting to know 'Psalm', but it is actually a big success, almost unexpectedly so, given that I thought a whole album of southern gothic and persian pop influenced songs might be a bit of an overload of those styles of music. The reality is that this is an album packed full of enjoyable, lilting tunes, and Khosravi's voice is just fantastic throughout, with lovely harmonies provided by Rosendal. Hugely entertaining music, with thought provoking and interesting stories and lyrics make 'Psalm' by 'Black Dog Howl' our recommended album of the week.
Nordic Music Review 8/10