Sounds like … a hybrid of punk and garage rock, sometimes melodic and sometimes noisyAt a Glance … you'll only get into Dogwood if you're a serious fan of the punk/garage rock sound, but there's no denying that Dogwood is better at it than most
Dogwood has been together for eight years now, going through band members "like facial tissues." They insist the changes are always for the better, though, and that much is evident by their evolving punk/garage rock sound. For their latest, Seismic, the band added a second guitarist, Daniel Montoya, to add to their rocking tour de force. Thus Dogwood continues to rise above the standard punk rock formula so prevalent in other underground Christian bands. Lead singer Josh Kemble offers a welcome change from the typical faux British vocalizing, favoring instead a screaming rasp that one more often associates with hard rock and metal.
Better yet are the songs, which are more intelligently written and less formulaic than the usual punk sound. "Conscience in a Cave" opens with a strong guitar hook to deliver more of a powerhouse garage rock sound, perhaps comparable to The Hives, The Vines, or The Juliana Theory. Another hard-hitting rocker comes with "Absolution," in which Josh's passionate vocals shine to confess and marvel at Christ's willingness to forgive all faults. Dogwood also has a couple of songs on Seismic more reminiscent of early '80s new wave. "Trailer Full of Tragedies" has an extremely catchy beat and melody, complete with handclaps and a guitar solo — think along the lines of Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle." Similarly, "Last of the Last" has a classic new wave sound for a song that laments an old friendship that went wrong.
Seismic could have used a few more examples of such variety, however. The title track is a fast-paced, energetic punk/emo rocker about the conflict between our sinful nature and desire to do what's right. "Home Is Here" shares a similar sound to carry its message of grace and acceptance. Too many other songs, like
"Selfish Americans" and "Sunsets Are but Once a Day" follow the classic two-minute, rapid-fire, quadruple time, modern punk style — fine for hardcore fans of the style, but tiresome and boring for others who have heard it all before. "What Matters" starts off promisingly with a great opening guitar, only to switch to the fast style later in the song. The same is true of the thunderous "Faith." And if there was any doubt about the band's beliefs to this point, you need only listen to these lyrics — "I have a faith no one believes / I love a God no one can see / 'You put your trust into thin air' / That's what they all told me / But I believe because of fear / that I can see You crystal clear / I know that You will meet me here."
Like a lot of punk-styled albums, Seismic is comprised of a lot of very short songs — 12 tracks and 33 minutes in this case. Is it worth it? Most punk rock fans don't seem to mind, and that's clearly the audience for whom this album is geared. If you consider yourself a serious fan of this style, Dogwood's latest rates better than average, once again proving they're one of Christian music's more impressive punk rock acts.