Blackwater Park – Dirt Box

Blackwater Park - Dirt Box

Blackwater Park is a band whose brief existence was made notable not through their own doing, but rather through those (or, in this case, someone) they influenced. Almost thirty years following the release of Blackwater Park‘s one and only LP, a certain Swedish progressive metal band would go on to use the band as a namesake for one of the most acclaimed metal albums of all time. Whether you’re hearing about Blackwater Park through their indirect association with Opeth, or simply interested in classic psych-tinged hard rock, Blackwater Park‘s Dirt Boxis a worthy listen. Effective grooves and a fuzzy proto-metal grit make it an interesting find, although their barebones approach to Krautrock and bland songwriting standards keep it from being one I’ll likely return to anytime soon.

Though Blackwater Park might not have the experimental edge to call themselves proper ‘Krautrock’, the fuzzy garage aesthetic is here. Considering its 1972 release date, Blackwater Park have some heavy grit and distortion in their sound- whatever you might consider metal to have been in the early 70s, rest assured that Blackwater Park would fit in snugly. There is a charisma to Blackwater Park- heard mostly in the ballsy vocals of Richard Routledge- but there is a prevailing sense throughout the album that the sound on Dirt Box has been kept almost puritanically barebones and basic. Matters are not helped by Blackwater Park‘s songwriting; although they have a solid foundation of a style, too much of Dirt Box seems to draw from the same shallow well. Riffs begin to blur together, and for all of Routledge’s vocal presence, I can’t remember an original hook of theirs after the album is finished. For what it’s worth however, their thick sound and powerful grooves are enough to make a good first impression, and at least enough to make the first couple of listens worthwhile.

Ultimately, I think it’s the inclusion of the Beatles cover “For No One” that goes to show how uninspired Blackwater Park are as songwriters. There’s no doubt that few artists in popular music could master hooks like Lennon/McCartney, but to hear the music shifted from heavy blues-standard riffs to something outside their own box weighs against the rest of the songs. To their credit, Blackwater Park do a fine job of making “For No One” their own; whereas the original is a piano pop track, the Dirt Box version kicks it up into fuzzy distorted nirvana. Splitting up before they could come out with another album, Blackwater Park committed themselves to obscurity. I don’t think anyone looking for a direct musical influence of Opeth will leave this feeling all-too satisfied, but otherwise it’s a fairly charismatic hard rock record. Approach it without any preconceived notions and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Tracklist:

1. Mental Block (3:18)
2. Roundabout (5:45)
3. One’s Life (3:03)
4. Indian Summer (6:10)
5. Dirty Face (4:25)
6. Rock Song (8:45)
7. For No One (3:25)

Line-up:

* Richard Routledge – vocals, guitar
* Michael Fechner – guitar
* Andreas Scholz – bass
* Norbert Kagelmann – drums

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