Label: Self released
Date: April 1st, 2022
In order to fully comprehend Dirty Shirt and what they are trying to present, one needs a bit of background knowledge. Not only in ethnology, but also in the mentality and cultural mixtures that are especially tangled in the Balkans. Seriously, borderlines out here are often quite literally nothing more than lines on a map. Interweaving between different nationalities, beliefs or races are as natural here as possible. Doesn’t matter how certain morons try to untangle these labyrinths of ethnicity, these knots are tied to maximum. Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece… Even Turkey, with its small portion that remains on the peninsula.
Slavic, Middle Eastern, Roman, Celtic, European… Traditions and cultural diversity is nowhere as present as on the Balkans. What’s more, these cultures mix together into one another, with more or less success, but they do.
Now, add modern age to all of this. Pop culture and “global village”. And the wherever present Gypsies which bring along their own heritage. Thus, the melting pot is complete and you are ready for Dirty Shirt.
To continue this elongated introduction could result in a whole essay on the cultural background of the Balkans. I’m nowhere near to being an expert in this subject, so I will stop in my tracks and dive into the music. Hell, even the best in the field of ethnology are struggling with this region, so what chance do I have?
Anyway, welcome to Romania! Dirty Shirt have a brand new record, so let’s step into dissolving another boulder of tainted metal.
Actually, Dirty Shirt have two new recordings. One is the album whose title you can see above. The other is a bonus EP titled “Pandemic Special”.
What these eight Romanians (and their numerous guests) are performing is a massive mixture of musical styles and influences. One might even say they are the absolute, undisputed champions of multitude additions to their sonority. I’ll try to mention them all, but please forgive me if I forget about one or two. It’s not intentional, or a matter of importance to the overall soundscape. It’s just that there really are many of them and it is possible I might misplace one or another.
The basis of Dirty Shirt’s sound is within the modern metal bounds. Basically, they are using the 21st century heavy metal platform upon which to build up this enormous construction. Contemporary, massive sound of bands such as Mnemic or In Flames, coupled with the nu metal tendencies of acts such as Soil and Slipknot and the occasional rap metal insertion. Some industrial metal lurks at times, too.
Progressive metal is also ever present. Especially its, again, modern day incarnation in the latest Dream Theater records, or bands such as Evergrey. This progressive element is particularly important as a bridge between metal and folklore in Dirty Shirt. The bridge which is the basis of the band’s appeal.
You see, the folklore of the Balkan nations is, more often than not, based on uneven time signatures and weirdly sounding ties between different parts. And if you want to find out more about it, but you’re one of those “I’m so metal I shit lead” types of metalheads, “Get Your Dose Now!” is the way to go. Then again, you might be deterred by the nu metal factor… Well, your loss.
On with the show… I’ve come to the folklore section of Dirty Shirt. Now, you certainly expect Romanian traditional music to be incorporated. Traditional music and traditional instruments. Okay, no big surprise here, but it sounds spectacular! However, even with the folklore, the Romanians mix it up a bit. You can find some Middle Eastern segments, a bit of a Celtic vibe and, most obviously, Gypsy music inserts, which are the biggest surprise here. Without a shadow of doubt, an original attempt that is more than successful. World music, indeed!
Literally, Dirty Shirt go where the feeling takes them. Most of the record has an extremely positive and optimistic vibe. Music for feeling good, for sure. Celebration, in short. They started as a wedding band, after all. Though the lyrical themes of the record are not the brightest, it would seem as if Dirty Shirt looks on the bright side of life and the pandemic we are witnessing.
Still, there is a dark side to Dirty Shirt’s music. Pieces where the violins and keyboards weep. It’s in a couple of songs that we can clearly hear a gothic input. And not just a modern take on gothic (though there is some of that). While there are moments when the band sounds like Evanescence, there are those that reminisce Lacuna Coil, too. Particularly in the nine minute long “Don’t Care” which is present on the bonus EP. On the album there is “Cand s-o-mpartit norocu’ (Part 1)” that also follows the similar pattern, but I’m mentioning “Don’t Care” for a different reason.
It has the clearest jazz influence on the record. Yes, there is jazz on “Get Your Dose Now!” as well. I told you it was diverse! By the way, from the title of the other track I mentioned you can conclude there’s also some native language involved. No, the diversity doesn’t end on music alone.
Now, I could point out a few negative points on the album. The cover, for instance, immediately got me thinking of Blink 182’s “Enema of the State”. Or the fact that among the myriad of influences, one or another gets left out in this song or that. They are evenly distributed among the tracks, but not all at the same ones, leaving a bit of a heterogeneous feeling to the record. Just a small bit, but it is there.
Still, this does nothing to the general experience of “Get Your Dose Now!” It remains one of the most original, well thought through and masterfully executed records I’ve heard probably for a decade or more. I’m absolutely in love with it!