Monday, September 15, 2014

DSH Perfumes- Metropolis

I've spent several days over the summer happily wearing Metropolis by DSH Perfumes before checking the notes and other information about this perfume. Once I did, I realized that perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz had created Metropolis as a masculine fragrance with the intention of evoking "Modernism. Minimalism. Urban chic. An abstract masculine design with notes of brushed steel, glass, concrete and motor oil". I had no idea. One might think that once I read that on DSH's website I passed what was left of the sample to the Blond so he can partake in the fun. I didn't *. I love my husband, but that was a Not Sharing moment. I wanted Metropolis all for myself. Besides, I needed more quality time to try and figure it out.

I don't know about metal and oil. To me, Metropolis is a very sleek oakmoss and animalics perfume. I get the minimalism, though. If you think about perfume classics that open with an aldehydic burst and develop into a leather chypre, they tend to be very elaborate, thick and dense. These perfumes were often incredibly ornate with the like of orange blossom and other floral notes, tobacco paired with leather, identifiable civet and castoreum--- you know the style. In Metropolis, DSH has stripped away some of these layers, making the perfume rather abstract. Yet the complexity is there. This is not a "simple" perfume, it's not a soliflore and it definitely doesn't lie flat. How can it, with all that oakmoss?

A quick detour: As a teenager in the mid 1980s I got to watch Giorgio Moroder's reconstruction of the 1927 Fritz Lang movie,  Metropolis. Even if you didn't see the full thing, you're probably familiar with the video for Freddie Mercury's Love Kills (co-written by Moroder for the modern soundtrack), which uses many clips from the film. While I can't say that much of the convoluted plot stayed with me, it's the aesthetic and imagery that produced the lasting impression and made me an Art Deco fan for life.

Art Deco is pretty amazing. The minimalism of the geometric shapes, just abstract enough to feel very modern, yet obviously vintage (antique, if you ask most dealers). To me it's also very NYC, even though I've been to the historic district of Miami Beach and enjoyed it immensely. This is where I feel the connection to the glass, concrete, and steel that Dawn Spenser Hurwitz mentions.

Metropolis (the perfume) opens chilly and crisp with a unique take on aldehydes. There's some bitterness (these are not your mother's fizzy aldehyde notes) and a glossy reflection on a green glass wall. But underneath the big and cold city, right in the machine's core, there's a warm heart, beating steadily. It's pumping blood, producing energy and sweat, asserting its humanity. But none of this explains adequately how gorgeous Metropolis is. I often  perceive perfume as color and texture. In this case it's the aforementioned dark and shiny green with gritty matte gray accents. Or maybe it's the opposite: green respites in a dark gray city. Whatever it is, the precision of DSH's brushstrokes combined with the sexy animalic dry-down is irresistible to me. Masculine? Perhaps. But I maintain that brilliant perfumes are completely free of gender.

Notes: bergamot, aldehydes, geranium, rose, petitgrain, oakmoss, cedar, sandalwood, castoreum, patchouli, leather, and musk.

* I did finally order a bottle for us to share.

DSH Perfumes- Metropolis ($40, 10ml EDP, other sizes and samples can also be purchased) is available from The original sample for this review was sent by the perfumer.


  1. Off topic... Or maybe not so much. In The Nursery (British twins who formed an electronic duo) created a musical collection called Optical Musical Series, in which they composed the soundtrack for remasterized German silent movies from the time of Lang's Metropolis. Several movies such as The Cabinet Of Doctor Calgary get revisited and musicalized by this superb British Neo Classical duo. I don't know how much you like music, but their work is impressive, specially the one done for the movie Asphalt. My personal favorite.
    I love Lang's work and ITN catches perfectly the vibe of that era.

  2. So glad to see your review of this! When I first ordered a sample of it, I wasn't thinking comfort scent - intriguing, interesting, enjoyable, yes, but not really comfort. However, it strikes just the right chords of memories and associations for me, so it has ended up right in the middle of my current comfort scent group. When I went to get it after reading your review, I found it lounging next to SL's Rahat and DSH's Cimabue - so different, but at a deeper psychological level they are actually very similar in their ability to ground me, remind me of good times, make me feel safe.
    And had to smile at your initial reluctance to share it with your husband. Have to say that most of the time I wish that my beloved DH could share my joy for scents, but there are some side benefits in that I don't ever have to worry he'll finish off any of my favorite bottles - this written after a visit to our fridge (in which the foods I was expecting to find have mysteriously disappeared) and thinking what the consequences might be if he approached perfume with the same enthusiasm he has for some of our favorite foods.


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