by Mike LeSuer (@zebraabraham)
Toronto’s Hooded Fang came into their own in 2013 with their third studio album, Gravez, in which the kooky energy they cultivated on their debut LP three years previously blossomed into full-blown Weird Canada wonk. The album’s cartoon suprematist artwork effectively communicates the colorful purgatory the band inhabits, deflating the sharp guitar chords of Franz Ferdinand with an unsettling dissonance while breathing new life into the angular brushstrokes of Kazimir Malevich’s two-dimensional vision. The result is an eerie soundscape characteristic of a band trapped between coexisting dysphoric universes - aptly designated “Subterranea,” “Wasteland,” and “Bye Bye Land” on the album - as communicated by their warped iteration of garage rock.
Two albums and a heaping load of context later, the edgy state the band continues to inhabit can more accurately be attributed to songwriters Daniel Lee and April Aliermos’ storied lineage (the dysphoric universes, as it turns out, are actually just Germany, Suriname, and the Philippines - two of which were irreparably colonized in the 16th century, two of which were irreparably dictated in the 20th century). Dynasty House contextualizes their unconventional instrumentations by spinning tales of their ancestors’ sacrifices in the face of oppression and their families’ successive struggle to assimilate as immigrants in a country (and artistic community) where racism and genocide are addressed with ignorance and apathy. The six-track album diagnoses the band’s persistent anxiety as a byproduct of a jumbled cultural identity while the tracks feel haunted by transcontinental spirits and the overwhelming guilt of a relatively uncomplicated existence.
From the opening hypnotic melody on “Queen of Augusan del Norte” it’s evident that the pummeling guitars and pop sensibilities of last year’s Venus On Edge have taken the backseat to the intimate raconteurism of the duo’s genealogical poetry. Lee’s vocals have nothing to hide behind except Aliermos’ overcaffeinated basslines and D. Alex Meeks’ aggressive percussing throughout the record - besides the chorus of maladjusted guitars simultaneously ailing from social anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and strep throat. As auteurs of the ominous, the continuous conflict between the band’s playful aesthetics and Lee and Lane Halley’s feral shredding provides an unmistakeable - and absolutely requisite - mark of the four piece.
Though Dynasty is fundamentally Hooded Fang from “Queen’s” spooky sci-fi breakdown to “Mama Pearl’s” incessant gushing guitars and all the clamor in between, the album is just as much an homage to Canada’s unique music scene as it is an ode to their elders. Having more in common with last decade’s incestuous onslaught of projects by Krug, Thorburn, Bejar, and company than Toronto’s chilly post-punk revival of today (Meeks’ drumming on “Doñamelia” suggests that he is, in fact, his forefather’s son), Dynasty is a family portrait in more ways than one. While it’s tempting to label it anachronism, it’s only fair to the complex individualists who comprise Hooded Fang (including Meeks, who’s taking time off to complete watchmaking school) to acknowledge that their latest album sounds like nothing else ever written or recorded.