Album Review: 'Beast' by NIIC the Singing Dog
The first time I was introduced to NIIC was on Flayrah. I think it was during the time we were discussing definitions of furry. Someone linked to an interview, republished on Flayrah, where NIIC shared his definition of furry music; one I referred to in my own article on the subject. However, I still didn't really listen to his music until someone linked me to "Paws To The Wall (Fursona version)."
Moving forward a few months, I looked for more of NIIC's work and found his newest album, Beast, released last month, available on Soundcloud. I decided to give it a listen, ripped everything out of the cloud and started listening to it at work. I quickly found that I was really enjoying it and decided to buy the album and help support him. Well, I ended up buying all of his CDs at once, but it does give me the perfect opportunity for a review!
All NIIC's merchandise can be ordered off his own website, including some clothing, posters and accessories, which I did not order. There are different prices for the US and International version, which I assume is due to postage costs; however, ordering multiple CDs does not lead to any decrease in price. I bought Beast ($13.99 US, $23.99 International) and CD Trilogy Sale, which is all three previous albums bundled together ($21.99 US, $31.99 International).
I had no problem ordering or paying for the CDs and delivery was rapid and painless. I placed the order on the 4th, was informed it had been shipped on the 5th and received it on the 12th, just five working days later. That's from the US to Austria. One nice extra was that a NIIC button badge was included for free; I'm guessing for making a fairly large order. There was a slight dent in the metal but it was only apparent on touch.
The CDs themselves appear to be made on demand, rather than mass-produced. This is perfectly understandable to keep costs for small volumes – however, it leads to variations in quality. The sleeve booklets are manually folded and do not always fit perfectly into the case, and the printing quality for the three earlier releases is poor. It's sometimes difficult to read the track listing, and the small copyright blurb is completely illegible. Strangely, if they're printed on demand, Beast has far higher image quality, both for the booklet and the CD printing. All CDs come signed by NIIC.
The music itself is all high quality. I will restrict myself to Beast, as it's the one I have listened to the most, but I believe it applies to the other albums as well. It can all be called weak furry music, in the sense that it is music created by a fur, but some tracks are strong furry music, where the music itself is furry. The album starts with two of those, the first being the introduction which refers back to his earlier work in the lyrics.
Because I am Unleashed... And I trust Instinct...
I am NIIC the Singing Dog... AND I AM THE BEAST!
Unleashed and Instinct being his first two full-length albums and Beast his third and most recent. I found this referencing pleasant, as it built a collective narrative – a theme extended by some tracks revolving around his fursona and its back story. It was great when I listened to earlier tracks to hear lyrics that linked to and expanded on scenes or story lines that I was aware of. It created cohesion.
In terms of genre, although NIIC has, in one of his songs, classed his work as electro-pop, I found Beast to have some nice variety. "Introduction: I Am" is not so much a song as narrative with a brilliant audio build up. The titular "Beast", "Our Time Will Come" and, to a lesser extent, "The Doghouse" seem to influenced more strongly by rock. And "Could You Ever" is a really beautiful ballad.
I recommend supporting NIIC and getting his work. The quality of the physical product is mid-way between other furry musicians I've bought from; Fox Amoore, who has professionally printed CDs and Zeta (a friend of mine) whose video game-inspired music is only available digitally. However, the music quality is top notch – it's catchy, and you can try out all the tracks for free before deciding if it's something you would like.