Duell’s Futureless Is a Soundtrack for Hopeful Nihilism

Duell Jackie Brown
After nearly five years, Fort Worth party metal band Duell has finally delivered a new 10-track album filled with bangers and anthems.

Futureless shows more concern for the listening experience than the band’s raw, booze-fueled 2014 release Back to Drunk. And this approach works well to create depth and range both lyrically and musically for a genre that is too often derided for having neither.

This is metal for people who just don’t get metal. It’s a soundtrack for hopeful nihilism in the Trump era. It’s dark. It’s cynical. But, most importantly, it’s a lot of fun.

What really sets Duell apart from most metal acts — or at least what one has come to expect from most metal acts — is the melodic vocals of singer Belvedere Lee. There is no guttural screaming here. Instead, Lee’s vocals have more of an Ozzy Osbourne feel in their unstated eeriness and brooding whine.

And, like Osbourne, Lee is backed by a band full of talented musicians who perfectly complement the album’s sense of repressed despair searching for comfort in an all-too-abrasive world. For the most part, the more maudlin tones of the album are sung with a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness and played through with the kind of headbanging, fuck-it-all attitude we’ve come to expect from the band’s energetic live shows.

For example, the album’s first track, “I’m Shit,” kicks off with the fury of a jilted lover screeching out of a driveway, with Lee singing, “She said I wasn’t number one / I won’t make that mistake again / I am shit!” with the final line repeated four times.

Even in the band’s nihilistic statement on the country’s political turmoil, “Eat Shit Die,” the lyrical skepticism is hidden behind a veil of lawless riffs and eminent hook that is sure to have a lot of audience participation as Duell hits the road.

When things get more emotional in a slightly less energetic track like “Hurt Russell,” the impassioned heartache hides behind an upbeat, albeit slower, rhythm — not to mention the song’s playful title.

But that level of intensity can only last so long before it crashes, burns and dies away.

In the album’s swan song, the despair becomes too overwhelming for the healing power of music to soothe.
“All the World” is Duell’s slowest and longest song to date, and it’s alarming in the way it gives up the ghost of metallic defiance.

“All the world is there to bring you down,” the song’s persistent refrain, is sung in a style reminiscent of the haunting harmonies of Alice In Chains. This isn’t Duell steering away from its vision. This is simply the veil coming down, showing us that sometimes there might not be anywhere for the pain of it all to hide.

As the song slowly peels out into the fading silence of a single guitar strumming, one cannot help but feel a sense of loss for all the metal moments that brought us to this occasion.

The overall effect of such a well-wrought album is that even if what we are all working on is ultimately Futureless, there is still a place for rocking out in the face of all the troubles that beset us. It’s OK to be sad, worried, frustrated and even hopeless, but we’d better have a damn good time while we’re at it.

You can celebrate the release of Futureless alongside Duell in a weekend of album release parties with stacked lineups.

Duell will play Friday night at Ruins in Dallas (2653 Commerce St.) with Son of Stan, Mountain of Smoke and Sub-Sahara; and they will play Saturday night at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth (2736 W. 6th St.) with Sealion, Mountain of Smoke and All Clean.
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David Fletcher writes about music, arts and culture for the Dallas Observer. You can usually find him at a show in Deep Ellum whether he's writing about it or not. A punk scholar and local music enthusiast, David focuses his attention on the artists screaming in the margins of Dallas' music scene.
Contact: David Fletcher