Canis Dirus return from beyond with cold, passionate display on raw ‘Independence to the Beast’

Artists take time away from their projects for myriad reasons, and it’s really none of our business why it happens. But for as prolific as some artists seem to be, there are others that aren’t constantly cranking out material. But when they do, a lot of times it was worth the wait.

We haven’t gotten a new full-length from Minnesota black metal duo Canis Dirus in eight long years, the last one being “Anden om norr” that was released in 2012. Last year, things started to stir with the arrival of their “Das Leben ist fur die Lebenden, der Tod ist fur Alle” EP, and later in the year, the band—vocalist Rob Hames, multi-instrumentalist Todd Paulson—announced they would be returning with a new full-length under the Bindrune Recordings banner, bringing more nature enthusiasts under that label’s embrace. That new record is now arriving in the form of “Independence to the Beast,” a six-track crusher that feels explosive and raw at the same time, a new blast of fury from two guys who take their time and craft their work to their own specifications. Taking their name from the ancient dire wolf, the band prides itself in celebrating life’s natural birth and death cycles, and within that is creative and spiritual rebirth, a stage in which they’re now operating.

“We Are the Ancient Ones” tears the lid off the record with fierce shrieks and the playing burning flesh before things settles into a slower pace. There’s a rock feel underneath the chaos before wrenching power is unleashed again, with eerie synth coming in to chill your blood. The leads warm up again and usher in punishing waves before noise hangs in the air and drifts away. “Father” delves back to the band’s folk roots as acoustics pick their way through the weeds, and the verses are more spoken than sung, with Hames wondering, “Father, am I strong enough?” before asserting, “Yes, son, stronger than he,” as the song ends in reflective pools. “The Child and the Serpent” has synth building and creating ambiance before the power erupts, and the metallic assault takes on a dusty feel. Shrieks scrape as the song mixes light and dark, feeling hypnotic and strange at times during this 11:49 journey, as guitars quiver and echo. “It comes to you like the serpent came to Eve, your eyes will be open, and you will be like god,” is a statement that jolts the final moments before the track drains into the river.

“To Cast the Runes” also brings folk spirits back into the mix with spoken lines that climb into your brain and a mesmerizing inhibition that melts thoughts. “Extreme Might of Resolve” explodes with shrieks and dizzying guitars before synth meets up with bending riffs, and the music spirals into freezing terrain. Manic shrieks then fire up as the playing begins to maul, letting a classic metal-style riff have its space to develop and knock you flat on your ass. It’s a killer. That guitar line keeps coming back for more as a solo rips hearts, and the playing clubs your muscles into shape. “Unyielding” closes the album, and it’s the longest track at 15:46. It starts in a bed of melody before chaotic playing strikes hard, bringing moodiness and outright violence. The song has a vibe that makes me think of being lost in the forest with the midday sun beating down, and a calm folkish sprawl arrives and is burnt to a crisp by a terrifying assault that could tear doors off their hinges. The track steamrolls as noise builds to a climax, murky and trippy playing enters, and the track is allowed to bleed away slowly, taking with it your mind and spirit.

Time away can be valuable both for the artists who make music and for the listeners who consume and celebrate it, as it allows us a chance to remember what it was about a band that made them special in the first place. “Independence to the Beast” very well could be that thing for long-waiting Canis Dirus devotees, and the six tracks that greet you at their gnarly gates will ensure you that the fires are blazing as hot and heavily as ever.

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