“Kunk” is not a real word. Still, it’s got a nice, heavy feeling to it. Like the sounds of Adam West’s POW!s there’s a percussive dynamic, like it was the onomatopoeia of the sound a wooden club makes when it makes contact with a cranium. It’s also a damn near perfect title for anything associated with sludge-rock neanderthals Dope Body.
The Maryland cavemen have only been around since 2008, but they’ve built a solid reputation for making some of the fuzziest, nastiest, gnarliest rock in the states, built off of hazy guitar tones, drums that sound like they’re played with rocks, and unhinged vocal lines. Kunk proudly continues this tradition, and also carries on the not so hidden catchiness that Dope Body owns and injects into their best pieces.
Though “catchy” definitely has more plague-like connotations with Dope Body. Opener “Casual” is an earworm of sorts, but it also has a grating guitar lead and a smoking, blistering outro that makes you wonder what exactly the boys were on while recording. Despite song titles like “Ash Toke”, Kunk isn’t the soundtrack to your next 4:20 session. There’s too much madness dancing in these faded out songs to speak to any relaxation.
Even the songs that wane toward danceable or hummable feel like pop songs pounded into submission. “Old Grey” serves as the centerpiece, and it’s got an undeniable groove, but the guitar still screeches and whines to an uncomfortable degree and Andrew Laumann jitters and shouts above the mess. “Down” could have been in league with any number of post-grunge hit singles in the ’90s (think Silverchair), but the main bass melody is covered in concrete and rolls along like a dump truck.
If you can extract them from the sludge, Kunk is filled to the brim with riffs, some of the finest in 2015. None of them march along with technical prowess, instead relying on pure bludgeoning ability. The crunching beast that perfectly accents the chorus calls of “Under my spell” on “Obey” fits the desperate, menacing mood to a T, even though it’s only made up of about three notes. In a similar fashion, “Old Grey” is primarily composed of one chord strummed with vile intentions. Instrumental “Pincher” could have gone for a higher tempo shift with its energy, but instead plays in the lower margins, aiming to punch the ear drums rather than pierce them.
“Pincher” is, unfortunately, one of the few good instrumentals here. Kunk has way too much time taken up by feedback covered interludes that disrupt a sense of cohesion. After a bruiser like “Goon Line” rumbles through, there’s no need for the lost and hazy “Muddy Dune”. Or how the aimless “Ash Toke” follows “Obey”.
Still, if you can look past those interruptions, Kunk is a top-notch rock record of the disgusting verity. This sort of noise and sludge ain’t for everybody, but fans of the Jesus Lizard, Pissed Jeans, or other such degenerates will take great masochistic pleasure in Kunk’s beatdown.