It took over 30 years for Ferocious Dog to get to this point – the release of their first album back in 2013. The band, of whom only Ken Bonsall remains as an original member, are renowned on the live music circuit. They have played in my neck of the woods many times, and yet to my shame, I’ve only ever encountered them briefly at festivals.
Ferocious Dog – Ferocious Dog – 10-Year Anniversary (Graphite Records)
Release Date: 31 March 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
This reissue and celebration of the band’s debut album is accompanied by a live release, Live At Leeds – Orchestral, a live set recorded at the O2 in Leeds in 2022, which features a string section.
There is a timeless quality to Ferocious Dog. Their aggressive combination of folk, punk and rock is infectious, whilst their messages are clear, vocal, and quite deliberately in your face. Ferocious Dog is packed full of such songs. Three songs are dedicated to Ken’s son Lee, including The Glass, which opens the album. The combination of fiddle, banjo, guitar and the high tempo rebel anthems are guaranteed to get the blood pumping. The songs are delivered with passion, the emotion crackles from start to finish, and it’s a rollercoaster ride through all 15 songs.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the type of sound Ferocious Dog generates, which is very much based on the Irish folk style and traditional themes, but Ferocious Dog do what they do incredibly well. You can’t help but appreciate the enthusiasm, heart, and determination that drives songs like Too Late, Hell Hounds (from which their feisty fan base takes their name), Lyla, and Blind Leading The Blind. You can almost taste the mosh pit.
There’s more than just frantic folking punk here, as Freeborn John takes a decidedly reggae style. Inevitably, the frenetic pace of songs like Hell Hounds are the ones that will get the blood pumping and the beer spilling in the clubs they play. Musically, even if you do not enjoy the quality vocals and lyrics, the technical ability of the band is something that you cannot buy. It must be learnt, crafted, guided, and moulded in a manner that takes many years.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary, this package comes with a truly special set recorded at Leeds 02 in 2022, accompanied by a six-piece string section. It’s this live recording that really makes me want to get along to the next show in town, for it is fantastic.
Carefully curated yet fabulously unscripted, the band roar through a 12-song set, each of which is perfectly accompanied by the orchestral arrangements. There’s plenty of poignancy, with Class War, Yellow Feather, 1914, Justice for ’96 (acknowledged in the show as the 97 now) and Criminal Justice all hitting the conscience and proving what a band Ferocious Dog is in the live setting.
There’s joy, frivolity, and a right mix of songs to whet the appetite whilst the crowd are raucous but respectful, with the right balance of banter and silence when needed.
Picking out individuals would be churlish, but the performance of backing singer Lizzey Joy Ross is one that needs to be highlighted. If ever there was a genuine live album that makes you want to see a band, then this recording is that.
Exceptionally fun, boisterous and carrying the messages that need to be made, Ferocious Dog’s tenth-anniversary release is one that is a real joy to explore, indulge, and enjoy.