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Undurskin – Debut Album and Live Review

I got sent the new debut album to review by Undurskin. What started as a side project for Mok Morris and Andy Dawson of Punk/Hardcore exponents Billyclub, it has now become their main focus.

In the past year, Billyclub looked to be winding down but have since been re-energised by Karl Morris by re-forming the original USA line which culminated in an American tour. As for Undurskin, the album was released a few months back to critical acclaim. Andy and Mok had worked on what’s referred to as a “concept” album and I was fortunate enough to not only hear an advance copy of it, but to see some of it performed live at Dundee’s Punktoberfest Festival.

As for the album itself, here’s my thoughts;

“Ya Born, Ya Die”. That’s the opening slavo from Mok Morris on the new album from Undurskin. Mok and his partner in crime, Andy Dawson, started Undurskin as a side project from their hardcore band Billyclub. The hard hitting duo have crafted a niche album and taken a step back from their standard 4 piece line up to tell their tragic dark story with a crushing soundtrack. Five years in the making, it’s best described as a “concept” album. Every song has been tailored around the fictitious script of Tony, a hitman with a heart and his heart wrenching love for Ali, a malevolent mistress in her own right. Mok and Andy were in a transition period between winding down Billyclub and ramping up their Undurskin “project” which has now come to the fore. They’ve hit the ground running with their debut album and will now be playing it live.

From the opening track, “Kill me if you can”, I could still feel the songwriting influence from Billyclub and wondered why it wasn’t a new BC album. It took another few tracks for me to break the mindset I was listening to BC as the unmistakeable voice of Mok would normally associate me with the band. The music is being played by Mok and Andy and had been recorded over the past five years. It would have been a travesty to merely skip through the album without giving it some due diligence and actually give it my 100% attention. I’m glad I did as it took me on a journey. There’s a brutal narrative running right through the album and it has the feel of a dark graphic novel similar to the 2005 Bruce Willis movie, “Sin City”. The underground violent gangster theme of the story lends itself perfectly to the  genre of music. Hard hitting drums, edgy meaty bass lines and simulated guitar riffs are all the work of Mok and Andy. Some great musicianship on the album and some carefully choreographed instrumental parts as well which brings a welcomed dynamic to the overall story.

I played the entire album right through in one go. I played it on a road trip. Once I dialled into the dialects, I was able to picture the characters in my head. The graphic novel/audio book feel of the album was played out chapter by chapter as each song told the story like chapters of a book. The rollercoaster story had a definitive ending and left nothing untold. I initially wondered how this “concept” could live outwith the narrative but having subsequently listened to individual tracks, they almost take on a life of their own. Having the benefit of knowing the whole story, I reflected on the experience and can appreciate each song as a standalone outwith the total concept. Flicking through the comprehensive booklet of artwork and imagery, the inclusion of lyrics went someway to understanding how they have managed to turn a collection of songs into a concept. I wouldn’t say it’s ground breaking or even earth shattering but it’s a solid story with some belting tunes. Considering the amount of ground work that’s gone into producing this overall package, I was sure the live experience would be well worth checking out. 

Mok and Andy had always intended taking this on the road and they got their opportunity with an invite to play Punktoberfest 11 in Dundee. No stranger to the festival as they had both played a few times with Billyclub so it was a venue they were familiar with and would have a warm welcome from some familiar faces.

Undurskin got a prime slot on the Saturday and played to a pack room. The Soundcheck certainly sounded interesting with Andy hitting some weird and wonderful samples from his octopad. Mok had a nice looking array of pedals that would enable him to fill out Bass and Guitar simulations.

Undurskin Live at Puntoberfest Pic Credit: Raymond Thomson

The set kicked off with “Kill Me If You Can” the opening track off the album “What Goes Around”. As expected, it’s a wall of sound with the onslaught of drums and bass crushing the PA. Another album track “Gonna Make It” followed and there’s some serious sub going on. The metal/punk delivery hit hard and there was a couple of Billyclub numbers thrown in for good measure including “Civvie Killers”. Mid set highlight was a David Bowie cover of “Scary Monsters”. It wasn’t the last cover to be played as the dynamic dark duo finished off the set with a faithful version of “Pretty Vacant”.

Andy Dawson of Undurskin Pic Credit: Raymond Thomson

For a debut gig, Undurskin endeared themselves to the Dundee crowd going by the reception they got. There’a a growing number of two piece bands on the scene and Undurskin have certainly set the bar high with their first gig. 

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Raymond Thomson - Deputy Editor

I am a photographer/musician/engineer living in Scotland. My passion is music and motocross and I share my work on facebook/punk4RT and facebook/madmaxmedia. I do like a bit of throw back to the heydays of the 60’s/70’s/80’s when it comes to taking shots of bands. I grew up on the music papers (NME/Sounds/Melody Maker) and drew influence from Pennie Smith/Jill Furmanovsky/Anton Corbijn/Bob Gruen/Adrian Boot/Charles Peterson.
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