Primitive Origins: Dust – ‘Dust’

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

Dust aren’t as obscure as some of the other bands we’ve covered in this column, but it was only a matter of time before we had to give a tip of the hat to this early-’70s New York hard rock band for this raucous debut (and, of course, for the very proto-metal cover art of 1972’s follow-up Hard Attack). There’s a KISS connection, too, with Richie Wise and Kenny Kerner, who worked as producers for the gods of thunder, both involved here, Wise as guitarist/vocalist and Kerner as lyricist and producer, as well as handling managerial duties. And there’s some very metal cover art on this, their 1971 self-titled debut, as you can see above.

This one is firmly in a hard rock place, the band going hard on songs like “Chasin’ Ladies,” sounding like an amped up KISS with some Zep overtones. It works, and while it comes nowhere near the doom and gloom the album cover suggests (seriously, the cover art is great but totally inappropriate here), it shows off a very rowdy, off-the-charts energy that puts these guys one step above a lot of classic rock bands in terms of sheer volume, which is what we’re really wondering about here.

The album, originally released on Kama Sutra Records (you know, I love the ’70s, but some of it must have been agonizing), dabbles in slow blues rock (“Goin’ Easy”), but it does it with muscle; if we can have old ZZ Top in our collections (and, believe me, we can, and should, and do), we can have this.

Then, there’s “Love Me Hard,” which takes a blues-rock idea and makes it frantic, makes it loveable, makes it downright fast; you almost expect some proto-speed-metal bpms to drop here when the drummer kicks in. Decibel-approved.

Even more Decibel-approved is “From a Dry Camel,” a late-album 10-minute proto-doom cut that starts heavy and just gets heavier, as well as faster, and more frantic. This is the only song on the album that really warrants the gnarly album cover, and the decision to bury it is, although understandable, a regrettable one: just imagine how this album would have gone over if this was the opener (probably worse, sure, but it would have impressed me all these years later, at least). This song rules, and is almost single-handedly the reason this album warrants discussion in this column all these years later. Take ten minutes out of your day and give it a listen, right about here:

They follow up that proto-doom monster with “Often Shadows Felt,” a twangy acoustic ’70s rock song that actually has an alright amount of dirge in it, although those insane late-song keyboards basically tell us all how to get to, how to get to Sesame Street. Still, points for effort, and closer “Loose Goose” (look, it was 1970, don’t worry about it) is a completely hectic boogie-rock-on-11 tune that is definitely worth a listen and probably raised a lot of hay off the grounds in the local barns or wherever bands of this size and sound were playing in 1970 (which is, in all seriousness, something worth spending much time thinking about, discussing, and researching: the buildings where these genres were born in were often so insignificant on the outside but held nights of great, monumental, and near-forgotten importance).

While not breaking much ground in the development of extreme metal, Dust’s debut is a rockin’ good time, most noteworthy for those of us wondering about the development of the extreme sonics we enjoy today for the inclusion of “From a Dry Camel” (can’t believe I didn’t make fun of that title first time around, it’s insane), a song that definitely takes early doom sounds to places that few—such as the mighty Sabbath—had even considered in 1971.

Dust’s Dust – The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No, although those ’70s blues jams do tend to go on a bit, don’t they?

Heaviness factor: Like many of the records covered in this series, inconsistent: these proto bands just didn’t know what to do with themselves sometimes, which resulted in fast rockers next to blues rockers, which, in turn, resulted in a lot of almost-excited heshers.

Obscura Triviuma: You may know drummer Marc Bell by what he was later called: Marky Ramone. Yup. Bassist Kenny Aaronson has played with an astounding who’s-who of rock, from Michael Monroe to the New York Dolls.

Other albums: The aforementioned Hard Attack; get both albums on one 2013 reissue on Legacy Recordings.

Related bands: Way too many to mention, but apart from the ones referenced above, there’s Billy Idol, Foghat, Mountain, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Yardbirds, and many, many more.

Alright, fine, if you must: Just have a couple drinks ready and you should be fine.