Album Of The Week: The Dirty Nil – Free Rein To Passions

Our pick of the week's new releases is a cathartic blast of positivity from the Canadian trio

Back in 2016, when every great new punk band seemed to be Canadian, I watched The Dirty Nil absolutely blow the roof off The Macbeth in Hoxton. And while the volume and the energy were in keeping with so many similar-minded peers, what set the Ontario trio apart was the infectious joy emanating from the stage. Frontman Luke Bentham was particularly magnetic. One foot in a sweaty hardcore basement show, the other on a stadium stage, 90s teen idol hair and a star-spangled western shirt, firing out massive riffs like t-shirts from a cannon.

The Dirty Nil - Celebration (Official Music Video)

The dichotomy at the heart of The Dirty Nil is what makes them so special. Fun and ferocity, hooks and heft, bubblegum and battering rams, their determination to be so many opposing things at once shouldn’t work anywhere near as well as it does. Few bands are this catchy and hit this hard but, seven years later, The Dirty Nil’s ear-splitting volume still feels like teenagers giddily plugging in for the first time and discovering just how loud this thing can go.

Unbridled enthusiasm is rarely quiet and the same goes for Free Rein To Passions. It’s somewhat reductive to call it punk. ‘Celebration’ comes stomping out of the gate more like earth-shaking thrash before edging its way towards Alice In Chains’ metallic grunge. Bentham even drags out the words “world” and “require” on the chorus like he’s channelling Layne Staley himself. Barnstorming single ‘Nicer Guy’ almost recalls fellow Canadians PUP, albeit after a dangerous overdose of positivity. It’s a thrilling combination of post-hardcore guitars, pop punk hooks and a dollop of showmanship. The essence of The Dirty Nil in a single song.

The Dirty Nil - Nicer Guy (Official Music Video)

‘Undefeated’ ponders the demise of a seemingly perfect relationship via pummelling riffs, a choir of Benthams and a slick, shiny chorus, while ‘Stupid Jobs’ and ‘Blowing Up Things In The Woods’ find joy and catharsis in small-scale rebellion. The frantic title track extols the virtues of positivity, launching with a shout of “Get your f*cking body moving now”. It’s more a non-negotiable order than a suggestion.

The whole thing wraps with ‘The Light, The Void & Everything’, a slow-building, lighters-out monster which preaches that life means “nothing at all” and “we exist in a single blink”, so we’d better get off our asses and make the most of what we’ve got. That’s Free Rein To Passions in a nutshell. At its heart, it’s The Dirty Nil screaming you out of your stasis. Quit that job, be a nicer person, do something nuts, just find a purpose and get living. Time is short, make some noise.

Released: 26 May 2023
Label: Dine Alone Music
On Tour: July – August 2023