Likened to early Replacements meeting with Johnny Thunders, the Dogmatics were very much a cult band on the Boston rock ‘n’ roll/power pop scene in the 80s. During their original run, they toured with Dinosaur Jr., The Bangles, Hoodoo Gurus, The Fleshtones and dozens of other well known rock bands. Tragedy struck in 1986 when bassist Paul O’Halloran died in a motorbike accident and with just two studio albums to their credit, the band called time on their short career. [A twenty track anthology, ‘1981-86’, brings together twenty Dogmatics recordings and is the ultimate primer for anyone unfamiliar with their work.]
When Gramma Vendetta released their ‘Proof of Concept’ EP in 2018, the world was a very different place. Their punchy blues/garage/stoner metal hybrid sound was squarely about entertainment. After recording began on a follow up, a global pandemic forced everything into shutdown and – like everyone else – the band found themselves with a different set of priorities. The planned album became a stop-gap EP and the lockdown situation also gave them lyric inspiration, so, in many ways, their 2020 release ended up being a very different beast.
“[It] touches on the importance of words, their meaning and their power. The lyrics reflect on how words can be used to comfort, empower and encourage. But it also reflects on how they can be used to agitate, hurt and destroy,” says The Phoenix Within’s frontman Omar Feliciano of the band’s new single ‘Tenfold’.
Tackling the themes of using words to build relationships and bridges instead of using them to hurt, ‘Tenfold’ is already a powerful statement, regardless of the music. The track’s arrangement, luckily, has almost an equal power with a set of riffs that very much hark back to the 90s emo movement – specifically bands like Sense Field and Shift – which, combined with a thoughtful vocal performance, results in a fantastic three minute alt-rock tune that should appeal to fans of 90s sounds as well as lovers of bands like Fall Out Boy.
What would happen if you took passages from The Bible and applied them to some of the slowest and heaviest sludge metal riffs ever? Chances are, you’d end up with something so sacriligious, it’d stir up entire American States, amuse teenagers supposedly “going through a phase” and confound a lot of other people…
With the decade coming towards its end, 1988 was a genuine mixed bag. Pet Shop Boys released some of their best ever work; Elton John’s ‘Reg Strikes Back’ album marked somewhat of a comeback for the megastar after five years of intermittently enjoyable material and Jane Wiedlin hit the UK singles chart with ‘Rush Hour’, arguably one of the decade’s greatest pop singles.