4 out of 5
Produced by: Scott Mann
For those who started with Darediablo’s more available later releases, their early, self-released efforts might not be surprising, but they are different, owing to a much more improv, jazz tradition than the 70s / Southern rock that would follow. There’s a telltale sign on the cover of first release Tunnel Of Fire: their band logo missing the illustrated font treatment used a couple of releases later; though that’s surface level stuff, being key and guitar grind of the opening title track – which is fully in latter-day Darediablo form – the album is very jam band, very funk, very psych, and especially on some of the longer, live tracks which end the disc – very jazz.
This isn’t a bad thing, as the group concocts endlessly head-bobbing variations on a theme of aggressive bop, and the production is very clean and live, bringing a looseness to things that doesn’t sacrifice the clarity or impact of each instrument – guitars, bass, drums, keys. Bad Plus’ more rock-oriented compositions are a touchpoint for much of Tunnel of Fire, though Dare doesn’t drift into doing any covers or twists on traditionals; however, after the opening trio of songs, I’d say they become less and less identifiable through their sound, and start just delivering solid and enjoyable instrumentals.
Besides the possible mismatch of expectations if you started with later DD stuff – and that’s also somewhat furthered here by the opening song rocking out and the rest being pretty chill (okay, excepting 30 second freak out Destroy the Earth) – that’s the main knock against the disc: since it all sounds live, and the tracks are concise, there’s no doubt the group can bring this level of energy and competence consistently, but by the same token, it floats a bit too loosely to call out riffs; Tunnel of Fire doesn’t establish an identity.
However, it’s top tier instrumental jazz rock; whatever the balance may’ve been split between improv and compositions, live and studio, the material is grabbing. If this had been my first Darediablo record, you can be sure I would’ve been eager to hear what was coming next.