Oh, dear. I’m not entirely certain what to make of Darediablo and their latest LP Twenty Paces. On one hand, it is a deliciously monstrous slab of head-banging, fist-pumping instrumental rock ‘n’ roll, heavy and pure and downright beautiful in its clarity of focus; on the other hand, there are times when the disc can get a little repetitive, a little predictable, and just downright silly. But it’s arguable that these qualities are inherent in the nature of the beast; after all, we can safely say that many of the best rock bands—from the canonical heroes of old to the latest and greatest NME hype-magnets—share a number of these same qualities. And while the rock genre has been splintered, re-appropriated, and mercilessly battered to the point of being nearly unidentifiable—a mutilated corpse lying face-down in a puddle of John Bonham’s vomit, if you will—there is still a raw, primal element to the music that makes it easily recognizable and instantly gratifying.
This being the case, it is to Darediablo’s credit that it can so easily conjure what can only be called the timeless and essential spirit of the genre. The trio has pared down rock ‘n’ roll to its most vital components, delivering the goods through sheer instrumental muscle alone. And while it might be tempting to classify Darediablo as a post-rock outfit, it has nearly nothing in common with either the jazzy noodlings of Tortoise and its ilk or the grandiose musical statements of bands like GY!BE; instead, it channels the visceral punch of classic ‘70s rock, condensed into short three-minute bursts of goofy menace and tongue-in-cheek aggression. However, an inexorable feeling of sameness begins to creep in as Twenty Paces progresses, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the average listener is left wondering whether the LP is one long 35-minute track.
The album makes all of its upsides and flaws clearly evident within the first few songs. The disc opens with the title track, a pounding mess of grinding guitars and droning organs. At first, the song is fairly unremarkable—that is, until the Hammond swell hits and the band starts jamming into a fusion-inspired prog groove. It’s ridiculous, clichéd, and predictable; however, it’s also a lot of fun, and sure to induce smiles in anyone who was raised on a healthy diet of ELO and Jethro Tull. It is immediately followed by the frantic rush of “Apache Chicken”, a tightly-coiled stab of nervous energy filled with virtuosic guitar antics. However, by the time the third track rolls around—a funky little number called “Batten Down the Hatches”—you can’t help but feel a sense of familiarity; by the album’s midpoint, this feeling is all but inescapable.
Much of the problem lays in the sound that guitarist Jake Garcia chooses to use. While his playing can be subtle and surprisingly intricate at times, the basic tonality of the instrument itself never really changes, often sounding as if his amp is continually overdriven and pushing 11. And organist Matt Holford is once again buried in the mix, with many of his riffs relegated to providing texture and low-end. It is perhaps telling that the best tracks on the album—namely “Billy Got Worse” and the closer “French Exit”—bring the organs to the forefront, allowing Garcia a little more breathing space to experiment with some fairly interesting phasing and flanging effects.
But I must wonder if anything I’ve written can be considered valid; LPs like Twenty Paces tend to defy criticism, and it’s hard to deny the sheer joy afforded by playing this album at full volume with all the windows left open. It’s genuinely difficult to avoid head-banging or taking out the ol’ air guitar for a spin or two while listening, and the no-nonsense approach to rock ‘n’ roll taken by Garcia and Co. is something that has been sorely missing from the world of indie music. It’s very heartening to hear a group rock with such panache without resorting to either cheap gimmickry or delving into the occasional sappy power ballad.
Admittedly, Darediablo offers nothing new or innovative with Twenty Paces; however, it might be a matter of little consequence to the right type of listener. The technical skill of the musicians involved can silence even the most hard-headed Guitar Player subscriber, the compositions per se offer enough variation to keep the listener’s interest, and—most importantly—the songs just ooze menace and attitude. So what if the songs sound a bit similar to each other? Play the disc loud enough and you won’t even notice.