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Dharma - Dharma - EP - Review

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Hailing from the northwest, “esoteric metal” outfit Dharma have been honing their writing skills for years, only making a short departure from the stage in order to focus on life outside the band.  Despite this early disappearing act that would cast a shadow of scepticism upon any rockers future, guitarist and writer Ash Betton believes it was for the best, allowing them to return “full of fresh ideas” and what they believe to be their “strongest work yet”.

Dharma’s self- titled EP opens with “repugnant”. By definition, this is vile, disgusting and sickening. But in a “does what it says on the tin” approach this track manages to surpass itself, discharging these feelings through the epic soundscape maintained across the track. Throughout its opening moments “repugnant” kindles an unsettling feeling with talk of conspiracies, freedom, and secrecy being delivered through an eerie public service announcement from John F Kennedy. Before you get you head around what’s going on the EP builds upon this psychosis, hurling bitter riffs and a phenomenal vocal effect towards the tail end of the track that really helps to darken the mood further.     

Continuing the path into the unknown “nocturnal terrestrial”, again establishes a distinct atmosphere before delivering the goods. Brilliant vocals provided by Jake Hancock almost create a narrative, giving warning of a shapeshifting through a screeched delivery.  Whilst little nuances like this may not be something that is entirely new, it’s not seen often and it’s certainly not executed to this effect as much as it should be.   This mysterious opening soon gives way to battering percussion and an instrumental performance that is exploding with energy. 

“Zeal of truth” takes the opportunity to distinguish itself from the other tracks, relieving itself of the frantic performance of previous tracks, resulting in a more melodic yet unapologetically gut wrenching listen.   

Perhaps the releases dark horse, the final track “Gaia” is not what you would expect after the previous heavy hitters but none the less, it could be a case of saving the best for last. For me “Gaia” showed how dynamic this outfits writing can be.  Reminiscent of the many interludes presented by the genre defining “Architects”, the track breaks away from the noise and hustle to present a peaceful, instrumental EP closer.  

Vocally the performance across the EP was fantastic; each lines delivery was visceral and aggressive without sacrificing the definition or clarity of the lyrics, bringing to mind the likes of Liferuiner’s, Jonny O'Callaghan.  Sonically the release has all the haunting atmosphere and development of Stephen King novel, but the only twist in this story I that all of this was accomplished with armature recording tools, dedication and allot of time. Giving us an insight into their recording process Ash admits that “good production is something we really strived for, I find it can really make or break a record.”

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve never heard a debut release with this amount of character. Yes, it’s heavy, it will scratch any metal heads itch, but it delivers all of this with the quirks and style that enriches the substance of each track.  

Written By Adam Hopkin

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