Friday, January 21, 2022

Rhino Body Lover: A Tribute to Shallow North Dakota


There’s a predictable thing that happens when bands of a similar sound first get together. They talk about other bands. Specifically, what inspired them. What blew their minds. What got them believing that there was a place for a sound like theirs. 

You go into those conversations expecting to hear certain names. The big ones. The canon. The touchstones. That’s all well and good. But what really hits home is the moment when you find out that a band that felt like your own private discovery is just as special in someone else’s heart as well. And hold on, that person knows about them, too. And that one … 

For many of us in the noise/sludge/heavy music scene, that band is Shallow North Dakota. Despite a relatively slim recorded output through the 90s, capped by a self-released double LP swan song in 2004 that was barely promoted and never toured, this trio left behind a Velvet Underground-sized impression on those who heard them.

Part of that was their monolithic volume, a seismically registering force that dealt cannon blows to anything not welded in place. But more significant was their inversion of the classic power trio format. The axemen—guitarist Dan Dunham and bassist Michael ‘Biff’ Young—neither pounced nor preened. Instead, they faced inward, eyes trained deeply on the fulcrum of the group’s might and character. Drummer and vocalist Tony Jacome. With Jacome acting as the accelerant, the three men spat particles of ionized sound into their own core—a reactor sealed by focus, bearing the brunt of their own nuclear force. Sound bonding and breaking. Over and over. 

Near the start of this year, it was announced that Jacome had pancreatic cancer. By the end of September, he was gone. In the months between, many musicians found themselves engaged in that conversation all over again, but this time with an added dimension. The true breadth of Shallow North Dakota’s influence seeped to the surface, rapidly and passionately. Still somewhat secret, but now known. And with all of this knowledge, came a sense of urgency to cement this shared experience. 

That’s what Rhino Body Lover: A Tribute to Shallow North Dakota is. This 29-song tribute covers the majority of the band’s catalogue—an honouring of the fact that if the SND catalogue was a touch slim, that was only because it was fat free. Every tune had its advocate—and this advocacy came from far and wide. From Finland’s Throat to Vancouver’s Bison, Montreal’s The Great Sabatini to Minneapolis’ Asbestos Worker and Texas’ Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the assembled bands reflect the expansive respect the band still commands to this day. 

As a show of that respect, all proceeds from this compilation will be going to the Jacome family—longtime soulmate Cheryl and their two young children.


This is a tribute album of 29 covers of  Shallow North Dakota's catalogue. 29 bands from around the world have paid homage to the drummer and vocalist Tony Jacome who sadly passed away last year from Pancreatic Cancer. 

I have to say, I'm blown away by the quality of the tracks each band has put forward. This is one pissed off sounding album of noisy, booming sludge, angry at the injustice of the world. There are some bands I recognise but many I don't and such is the quality of each one, I'm in the process of checking each new band out and becoming reacquainted with the ones I already know. 

This isn't just a tribute to one of the fallen, but also to the days when 90's sludge was full of grit n shit and at its most obnoxious.

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