On their debut album, the Russia-based group Dunwich has captured a deeply stirring vision of haunting melancholy that rolls in like storm clouds across a horizon. The album, which is called Tail-Tied Hearts, centers on a kind of doom-laden death rock vibe, with a core of melodically propulsive rock instrumentation that’s been buried beneath a haunting cloud of carefully calculated, shiver-inducing restraint and occasional intense physical ferocity. Get a first listen below! (The album officially drops on September 4 via Caligari Records.)
Listening to Tail-Tied Hearts truly feels like stepping into a richly vibrant yet oppressively ominous alternate world. The guitar melodies that appear across the album feel perfectly crafted to push listeners into a state of unhitching their minds from previous emotional stability. On the album, the darkness creeps in via methodically pulsating guitar rhythms, which carry the same sort of immersively uneasy vibe as the synth segments that are scattered across the record like strange, otherworldly plants erratically growing across an abandoned church graveyard.
Tail-Tied Hearts does not feel unwieldly or particularly chaotic; instead, it proceeds with stern certainty. “Solitude,” for instance, begins on genuinely peaceful-feeling notes before growing into significantly heavier riffing and fiercely roared vocals. Even when the full brunt of the heaviness temporarily fades away, the unsettling currents don’t stop coming.
“Wooden Heart,” which the band released prior to the full album, feels like a particularly standout moment on the record, among many. Via the song’s bold, methodically swaying riffs, the track feels like the soundtrack for a haunted sea voyage, perhaps. Listening to the track feels like hearing a ballad from the great beyond, as if it’s a funeral dirge that some oceanic being has concocted and is sharing while observing the follies of humankind over on the shore. The band has explained on Bandcamp that the song is based on a 12th Century legend of a Dunwich woman who “cut out her heart and hurled it into the sea” after her lover deserted her. She “was unable to die, and still haunts the area,” the legend says.
Meanwhile, “Mouth of Darkness” (which immediately follows “Wooden Heart”) is one of the particularly more raging songs on the album (although it still doesn’t reach the level of chaos, per se). The pace of all the instrumentation (including the synth) picks up significantly, and the vocals temporarily turn into roars. That song, and the experience of the album as a whole, feel like forging ahead through a shadowy storm on that metaphorical haunted voyage.
Listen to Tail-Tied Hearts below! Order the album at this link. (Keep reading for a Q and A with Dunwich.)
Dunwich includes frontwoman Margarita Dunwich, guitarist/organist Anton Bronikov, and drummer Mikhail Markelov. Check out the Q and A with the group below:
Crafting the Record
Thanks for your time today! The new record is super compelling. So, to start with, are there particular guiding principles that you would say were behind the creation of the record? What sorts of things tended to guide the songwriting process?
Dunwich: Hello! Thank you for your interest in our music!
It all started quite spontaneously – just one day we decided to do joint work. Despite the fact that our aesthetic tastes and views are very different, we decided to try to do something at the junction, at the intersection of our perceptions. As good friends, in the end, although with difficulty, we manage to come to some consensus.
Most of the songs are written by Anton. Most of the musical and lyrical ideas were created by him. This material is then discussed and transformed with Margarita, which, like a subtle-feeling person with a subtle aesthetic vision, makes its own contribution, its own corrections and adjustments. Mikhail also periodically makes good suggestions.
Captured Howls: No matter if it’s very specific or not, how would you describe the “story” that the album is telling overall? Did you intentionally try and capture an immersive and storytelling-like atmosphere on the record to begin with?
Dunwich: At the time of writing the album, our goal was not to make it “conceptual”, to put together a single picture of the narrative. Rather, on the contrary – all the songs seemed to us independent, and even somewhat too different. Each song is a separate story, but rather a captured mood. The only exception is the Wooden Heart – a specific legend is retold in this song, which we were very impressed with.
Captured Howls: The keyboard parts on the new album are among the many elements that stand out to me personally. So, what sorts of things tended to guide your development of the sound of the record, specifically? For example, were you trying to capture a particularly “foreboding” atmosphere with the inclusion of the keys?
Dunwich: Indeed, the use of keyboards played on an old Soviet analog synthesizer brought an interesting and rather original sound to the album. The idea of what instruments should be used in the arrangements, we developed pretty quickly. We wanted to achieve the maximum artistic effect with a minimum of funds – we tried not to overload the music with unnecessary arrangements and unnecessary notes. Do not overload rhythm and harmony and achieve the highest possible expressiveness. Dunwich is an attempt to evoke a range of emotions in the listener using a set of images without overloading him with too much musical information. And of course, we couldn’t do without a synthesizer under any circumstances. Cinematic, psychedelic, gloom and dreariness are just some of the colors of this instrument.
Cultivating the Band
Captured Howls: I have read that Margarita’s father “grew up behind the Iron Curtain and picked up new hard rock releases when it was extremely difficult to do so.” For the band as a whole, are there particular hard rock or otherwise heavy music artists (from any time period) who come to mind as particularly inspiring, even if their music didn’t directly influence songwriting on your new album? What do you like about them?
Dunwich: Black Sabbath – music for the time. When it comes to dark, slow music, Black Sabbath’s legacy cannot be overstated.
Cradle of Filth is the group that has influenced my life more than others. Heard for the first time at a young age, their lyrics set the vector of interests in music, cinema, literature.
Tribulation has been a breath of fresh air on the metal scene over the past few years. On top of that, this is one of the few bands that all three of us like equally.
Darkher – this simple, but mesmerizing, sometimes disturbing, beautiful music inspired us to do our work.
Captured Howls: While luckily, signing with Caligari Records seems to have helped your music reach a geographically broad audience — I heard about it, after all — is there a strong local heavy music community that you have been able to connect with? How has your experience been like on that front?
Dunwich: There is no common community to which we belong, we are all three from different circles. There are many good bands on the local scene, but they are not united in any community.
Captured Howls: So, I noticed on your Bandcamp profile that the band apparently does not plan on live performances. So with the new record on its own, is there something in particular that you hope comes across for listeners? Is there a “cornerstone” of the album, so to speak, that sticks out to you?
Dunwich: We have plans to form a line-up for live performances. As soon as possible, we plan to start playing concerts. It’s hard to say when this will happen. However, we are working on it.
Perhaps our recording will be a breath of fresh air for someone. Or this particular album will touch someone’s soul strings.