The Dirty Nil Channel Their Own Higher Powers In Detroit
Posted on April 1, 2016
If you’ve been sleeping on The Dirty Nil’s new full-length album Higher Power, you need to change that ASAP. The Canadian power trio’s latest effort is a barrage of riff after riff, fuzzy bass, pounding drums, and angry-yet-somehow-still-singable vocal melodies. They are the undead corpse of rock n’ roll resurrected by a higher power to preach the theology of headbanging, and the message is spreading. I had a chance to catch them in Detroit at the Majestic Cafe where they opened along with Undesirable People (Detroit) for Creepoid (Philly) and Restorations (also Philly). Even though they were playing early in the night, The Dirty Nil stole the show.
It was hard not to smile right when the Nil took the stage. Lead singer and guitarist Luke Bentham was sporting a blue star shirt tucked into jeans with a belt, looking more like a country singer than someone who was about to scream out his vocal chords out. Bass player and second vocalist Dave Nardi wore a black button-up shirt to accompany him. Someone unfamiliar with the band would be very surprised when the Nil launched into their hard-hitting, pissed-off, smiling-all-the-while set.
The band opened with “No Weaknesses,” the first track on Higher Power, which kicks off with a riff that sounds like a revving engine. Right from the first chords, Bentham was playing like his life depended on it. And maybe it does. He sings “Now I’m sweating for a living, no end in sight” during “No Weaknesses,” and watching them perform, you’ll take it as the gospel truth. The Dirty Nil seem like the type of band that plays music out of sheer necessity—what the hell else would they do with their lives?
Bentham was not afraid of hamming it up in all the best ways throughout the set. He would jump around, then fall down and play on his knees like he was a preacher exorcising his guitar of demons during “Friends In The Sky.” The single “Zombie Eyed” sounds even better live than on Higher Power, with that opening slidy riff demanding to be heard in person. Nardi’s bass was growling with loads of fuzz, churning insides like a convicted sinner during “Lowlives” and “Know Your Rodent.” Every song was played with a huge, joyful, borderline mischievous smile from Bentham that seemed to say “thank whatever higher power I’m not working a nine to five right now.” Audiences have more fun when the band is having fun, too, and The Dirty Nil were contagious.
The band also played their lovably angsty 2011 single “Fuckin’ Up Young,” which Bentham dedicated to the crowd (thanks, man). Another highlight was going right from “Wrestle Yu To Husker Du” into “Fugue State.” While the former ended downtempo, Bentham stared off into the distance grinning like a devil who knew what was right around the corner. The guitars started fading out, but not before spontaneously launching into their most intense song. “Fugue State” is only 45 seconds long but it hits like a natural disaster of biblical proportions, sounding like a lost Motörhead track from hell. The set concluded with “Nicotine” as the band jumped around, screamed, and had fun until the very end.
The Dirty Nil played a highly satisfying set that had new and old listeners enthralled. Bentham actually sought out my friend and I after their set, which almost always happens the other way around, to say thanks for coming and chat for a minute about the tour. It was a small but very kind gesture that makes the Dirty Nil different than other bands not just in terms of music and appearance, but character as well. Bentham said they will be bouncing around the US and Europe for the rest of the year, and I mentioned that it sounds like they’re staying very busy. “Higher Power is out now,” Bentham said with a grin, lifting both arms into the air like a preacher about to bring the house down. “It’s time to spread the gospel.”