Emerging from the Dust
You look at the cover - you see a Metal album, no question - and it's quite mind-blowing that this is from 1971.
This is, however, no Black Sabbath clone - it's not even a Deep Purple, Free or Led Zeppelin clone. It's something almost entirely alien, and seems more rooted in Juicy Lucy, or possibly one of Leslie West's early projects.
The first track may well have you scratching your head; The slide guitar conjours up Deep South swamp Blues images a la Juicy Lucy - but the strident riffs underneath are already suggesting something a bit different to Hard Rock. There are some Led Zep overtones and maybe some of that Blue Cheer voice of God volume, but something else - something a bit harder, a bit more, metallic, shall we say?
Chasin Ladies is more solidly in the Hard Rock arena, with pumping Zeppelin beats - but again, there's something else - something less swingin' and more swaggerin', with a bit more precision and angular power than Budgie, and more than a nod forward to some of the more rock-oriented NWoBHM bands.
There's a reversion to the Blues, with more of that slide guitar in an elongated 12-bar structure (no, I ain't gonna count the bars or anything nerdy like that!), and a far less sleazy version of AC/DC's The Jack emerges.
Love Me Hard is where the metal action starts - that opening riff seems familiar somehow. Underneath, this is pure hard rock, but like a black butterfly shattering it's way out of a steel chrysalis, that main riff underpinned by pounding drums suggests early Maiden, and the middle 8 (or however many bars there are - it's more than 8!) with its quite shocking changes for the time and tension-creating buildups utilising immaculately controlled feedback are not from the Hard Rock school, but from something altogether sharper. The midrangey grunt of the rhythm guitar is also notable in predicting the high-gain JCM sound. Again, this is beyond that typical 1970s fuzz sound - it's a less mushy but harder driven sound.
A gong crashes twice, and From A Dry Camel launches into a kind of Sabbath-esque doomy riff If you can ignore the vocals and lyrics, or, by some miracle, actually enjoy them, then this is a superb piece of early metal, especially the riff that kicks in around 3:30, with more of that gorgeous controlled feedback, almost Lemmy-worthy bass and pounding but not over-intrusive drum work.
The pentatonic noodelry that follows is quite Iommi in character, and overly self-indulgent - and there's no real new stuff to make the 9+ minutes worthy of praise - or even note - but I'd imagine that if you slipped this on at a Stoner rock party, no-one would really notice the difference. That said, this remains an early example of Sabbath-inspired metal, and remains interesting from that point of view alone.
Wishbone Ash, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac appear to be the influences on the next laid back piece, a beautiful 5-minuter called Often Shadows Felt. I particularly dig the drum work, and as a piece of mellow metal (if there is such a thing), this works really, really well in spite of - or maybe even because of the wierd keyboardy sounding guitar line around 2:10. Could be a keyboard. Whatever. It sounds wierd. I'd recommend this song to any rock fan whether you think it fits into the Metal canon or not, simply because it sounds so fresh and unique.
The album closes with Loose Goose, a warped, twisted blues-based number that never goes quite the way you think it's going to, playing with blues ideas like a cat - throwing them up into the air deftly with a paw, then chomping down until they end up unrecognisable ragged versions of their previous selves. This is not to say the band are ragged - on the contrary, this is all done with synchronised precision and tantalising snippets of improv until it ends up a species of Hard Rock you've simply never heard before.
And that's what Dust were - a Hard Rock act with the same roots, but quite unlike their peers, redefining how the genre could sound - and a large part of that redefinition is what would become Heavy Metal.
An interesting and highly enjoyable album that doesn't deserve to be overlooked.