From the band name alone, I expected Ferocious Dog to be a hardcore rock band, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Ferocious Dog are a folk-punk band originating from Nottinghamshire in the 80s. Their first full-length album, named after the band itself, is both tragic and positive, deep yet broad, as it fights for our rights to life.
The album amplifies traditional folk music, creating upbeat, energetic songs that carry haunting lyrics and melodies. Both the band and the album are both startling good, which is not surprising as all of their tracks are both original, and personal.
Ferocious Dog have released a number of EP’s but this is their first full-length album. Written mostly by lead singer, Ken Bonsall, and violinist, Dan Booth, the tracks focus on personal and political matters that carry a lot of emotion to the band, yet they are not portrayed in a sentimental way.
It is clear throughout the album that family is a big influence to the band. A number of the album’s tracks have been written for Ken Bonsall’s son, Lee, after he took his own life last year after suffering from Post- Traumatic Stress, triggered by fighting in Afghanistan.
The first track of the album, The Glass, was written for Lee. The lyrics explain his thoughts and feelings before the tragic incident, “I went to fight in a foreign land but now I find that my depression.” It focuses on the state war leaves our heroes in and the lack of support that they are offered afterwards.
Although the lyrics are of a negative nature, the song is fast paced and upbeat, giving a clear indication of the bands folk origins. This is a beautiful tribute to Lee, carrying honest and emotional lyrics.
The second track on the album is also dedicated to Lee. Lee’s Song is an instrumental track that is again very upbeat. It carries a traditional folk rhythm making you want to get up and dance. It also feels very positive, as though a celebration of his life.
Following this is, On the Rocks, one of the bands older songs. The track was written over 10 years ago showing their true dedication to folk music.
Dan Booth wrote the lyrics during his time on crack cocaine. While it is again a negative subject, you can’t help but feel the need to dance and celebrate. The lyrics focus on the highs of drugs, which is carried through the use of a range of instruments showing off the bands true talent and ability to work together.
The song combines the use of a violin and mandolin along with a guitar, bass and drums to create a fast paced, unconventional folk song. Every time I hear the song it takes me into a drunken pub, surrounded by people laughing and dancing. It allows you to let free and just take in everything if has to offer.
Too Late is the next track on the album. It starts off a lot gentler, allowing you to appreciate the morality and realism within the lyrics. The lead guitar soon picks up the pace, then shortly followed by the ever-loved violin. While it starts of slow, it’s one of the most powerful tracks on the album due to the level of expertise in its creation, as well as the lyrics.
Dan wrote the song for an ex-girlfriend. The lyrics follow her battle to gain her fathers attention, and her sudden realisation that she doesn’t need him anymore, “no more waiting for you”.
The album then takes a political turn with the track Freeborn John. Ken wrote the song based on the English Civil War and Cromwell going back on his word. It also takes a different pace to the other tracks allowing the drum to carry the rhythm. Freeborn John is a powerful song in its choice of lyrics, “My only crime was fighting for a cause against this tyranny and unjust laws”. The age of the matter gives a chilled feel about the track but he manages to make it feel current.
Ferocious Dog then go back to their folk routes with the track Hell Hounds written for their fans. The fast pace returns as well as the need to dance.
Later in the album is the song Lyla, written by Dan for his daughter. It returns the album to a gentler, personal focus as Celtic influences begin to appear. The instrumental at the beginning of the song is both calming and pleasing to listen to, putting the listener at ease.
Lyla manages to take you back in time when the pace picks up, surrounding you with a crowd of people dancing and clapping. The song has a strong family and friendship feel to it showing off their true style and dedication to their home routes.
It is shortly followed Criminal Justice, my favourite track of the album. Ken wrote the song based on his love of the police and miners strike in 1984. The technicality of the mandolin used is extraordinary. It also follows the travelling life of the bands late drummer, Paul Newbury drawing you into the emotions within the lyrics, “And there he’ll stand, with sticks in hand just longing to be free”. Ken manages to make a political subject, truthful and current, as the lyrics call for freedom.
Towards the end of the album Ferocious Dog carry out their own take on the traditional folk song Mairi’s Wedding PT II. Their version of the track is very different to the original as they try to go against the ‘norms’ of folk music. Their turn on the lyrics brings the song it up to date, “Mairi’s called it off and she can find her own way home” and takes it up to one of the top songs on the album.
Verse for Lee closes the album as it explains the story of Lee’s death. The lyrics and nature of the song are very personal and deep, giving the listener a glimpse of his pain. It’s a touching way to close the album, reminding you just how much it means to them as a band and individually.
Ferocious Dog’s album is well crafted, original, and remarkably touching. It’s personal nature reaches out to everyone as each song carries honesty and love, whether for family or politics. It fights for everyone’s rights without blame or hatred. While the bands Celtic influences are strong without, they have certainly made the album their own. It’s undeniably worth listening to, even if it is just for the truly moving lyrics.