One thing which has struck me about the retrowave scene is the lack of mullets. I mean it’s a cursed hairstyle, but I’m surprised that I haven’t heard more music I would associate with them. The sub-genre I’m thinking of in particular being “Mullet Rock.”
We’re talking Whitesnake, John Parr, Kenny Loggins…terrible hair, big riffs, and bluesy rock with varying levels of synths wired into it.
My go-to guy for this genre is Stan Bush. You may not know the name, but you’ll know his career-defining moment:
For the record, “Dare” is the better song. Don’t @ me.
When I think of mullet rock, I think of Bush’s contributions to Transformers: The Movie‘s OST. Consequently, I associate it with excitement, with adventure and those big tunes that the 80s pounded out. But the retro scene seems to have veered away from it for the most part.
Greek producer Dimi Kaye has leaned into it. Their 8 track EP Not Holding Back is a love letter to pumped up 80s rock. To be fair, his work isn’t tagged as such. In an age where billions of sub-genres surface every hour, I think I can be forgiven for my references. That being said, I like one of the tags attached to Not Holding Back: “Shredwave.” So let’s go with that.
This EP shreds. There’s no debate there. And it doesn’t fuck around. Opening track “Slaver’s Bane” has an awesome title, and musically it lives up to that promise. It has the giddy, fists-in-the-air qualities that make Bush’s work so glorious. The retrowave elements (such as fluttering synth keys and gated reverb) are present and correct.
There’s also a strong vein of outrun here, but what elevates “Slaver’s Bane” higher is the contribution of progressive metal artist Nar’Thaal.
Nar’Thaal describes himself as a ‘Vengeful ghost of a singer and poet of the medieval times.’ That’s a grandiose, over the top way of characterising yourself. And it nails who they are as an artist. Nar’Thaal is a serious force of personality who adds a wonderfully theatrical dimension to proceedings.
“Slaver’s Bane” is one of two vocal tracks on Not Holding Back. The other being “The Truth,” featuring Swayze. Swayze’s work leans towards synth-funk, another fascinating light in the constellation of electronic music. Working with Kaye brought out something a little punk from them. Between them, they produced a racing track which is one of the EP’s undeniable high points.
The main body of Not Holding Back comes from Kaye’s instrumentals. The intro to “Only The Strong” smashes in with crashing soaring chords. The riff is melodic, awesome and the source of my comparisons to Stan Bush. There’s that same sense of energy and excitement. It makes you feel like you can take on the entire world.
The title track is extremely meaty. It features some of the strongest fretwork that I’ve encountered in years. “Fight The Night” would’ve been perfect for the OST of a ridiculous 80s action movie. Rippling muscles, gunning down legions of baddies without reloading…“Fight The Night” is the kind of song these scenes cry out for.
Not Holding Back concludes with “Not Looking Back.” It offers a nice shift in tone. A slower start, an earthy, grungier blues riff. Once things amp up, I found myself comparing it to Sisters of Mercy. Less mullet, more black leather and sharp cheek bones. It has the pounding beats and dark energy of “Lucretia My Reflection.” And let me be clear to a dramatic degree: this is nothing but a compliment. A HUGE one. And my compliments aren’t in short supply when it comes to Dimi Kaye’s work.
You can find Dimi Kaye here: