Despite what first impressions might have you believe, Oxygen Thief (real name, Barry Dolan) is not another name to add to the ever increasing list of ‘nu-folk’ artists populating the UK. He might be one man with a guitar but it’s highly unlikely he’ll be drawing comparisons with the likes of Frank Turner and Mumford & Sons. Hailing from Bristol, Oxygen Thief’s brand of “acoustic loudness” has more in common with the metal and hardcore scenes than anything truly ‘folky’.
Destroy It Yourself brings something truly fresh to the table. The recent swathe of acoustic music has been pretty mellifluous fare, populated with songs about long lost loves, political protests and heavy drinking. Now I’m all up for that, but to have an album so passionate and anger-filled almost always relying on the power of an acoustic guitar is rare. Dolan’s intense guitar playing and forceful vocal ability is akin to an acoustic Reuben, which is no bad thing. His lyrics are equally powerful and you’ll find it hard to get them out of your head. This is particularly prevalent when it comes to tracks like ‘Modesty Is Dead’ and ‘Nice Night For A Neck Injury’ – two tracks which follow a more traditional structure than others on the album. That being said, my favorite track on the album has to be ‘Words On Walls’. It’s as erratic as they come and I can certainly see the chorus line being shouted back to the stage at live shows, which is always a bonus.
Whilst the majority of the album consists of Oxygen Thief and his guitar, it does tend to go a little mental (technical term) from time to time. The aforementioned ‘Words On Walls’ has a really odd breakdown at the very end and the sparse use of effects pedals spice it up from time to time. My only complaint is that repetition does become a factor towards the end of the album, but it didn’t stop me enjoying it.
If you want something different, that you can turn up really loud, and just enjoy, look no further. Destroy It Yourself is an album that transcends genre and Oxygen Thief will soon be adopted by punks, indie kids and metalhead’s alike. If anything, you’ll be surprised at what can be done with an acoustic guitar and a few effects pedals.