[ KEY REVIEWS | SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(55 min, 'Red Fez')
Tracklist: 1. Ballbuster 4:28 2. Deus Ex Machina 20:30 a) The Jester's Theme (6-36) b) Deneb (2-42) c) Tournament (2-42) d) Derby Days (8-30) 3. Popeye 2:25 4. Bunnaschidt 4:50 5. James Thresher Industries… 0:57 6. Welding 5:48 7. Kim Philby 3:33 8. The Pumphous Suite 8:13 a) Rats And Me (4:35) b) Swing (3:38) 9. Clownhead 5:25 All compositions written & arranged by Robert Lord, Justin Walton, & Richard Habib. Line-up: Robert M. Lord - bass guitars, synthesizer (+organ - on track 2-b; kazoo - on 5), speech Justin S. Walton - electric & acoustic guitars, sax, piano (+organ - on 2-b, c; kazoo - on 5; vox - on 3) Richard R. Habib - drums & percussion, vocals Guest musicians: Andy Happel - violins (on 1, 2-d, 6, 8-a, & 9), organ (on 2-c) Shaun Frenchie Michaud - synthesizer (on 2-b) Darja J. Blake - flute (on 8) William L. Walton-II - French horn (on 4) Jay Williams - euphonium (on 4) Produced by R. Lord & J. Walton. Recorded, mixed, & mastered by Shaun F. Michaud & Andy Happel at "Dizzyland" studios, NH, USA.
Prologue. "The American Standard" is the third album by Dreadnaught (see the band's discography below). However, this is my first acquaintance with their creation.
The Album. Please don't be alarmed if this review sometimes reminds you of the previous one. There is great content in it, and it is because of the structural (not compositional!) and performing characteristics of both of these albums are in some ways crossing paths among themselves. Yeah, like those parallel rays of non-Euclidean spaces that are located nearby the square spheres of Lobatchevsky. (Though, this time, I won't ask you to calculate a "circling the square" instead of "squaring the circle".) As I said before, it wasn't difficult for me to discover (or create, if you will) Progressive's Fifth Element genre. It's just because, there are really plenty of bands today, the music of which doesn't fit any of the first four 'chief' Progressive Rock genres, namely Art- (Symphonic) Rock, Prog-Metal, Jazz-Fusion, and RIO. (Not to mention a lot of progressive sub-genres, among which I don't recognize those that were called by the names of the regions that they have arisen from: Canterbury and Kraut-Rock.) Yes, Dreadnaught is another representative of Progressive's Fifth Element. Musically, this album presents a unique blend of a guitar-based Classic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal with the elements of progressive Hard Rock and Country music. Of course, in addition, all of this was raised to the power of Fifth Element (which, as you know, is unique endlessly) to have a truly hard-edged Progressive Rock of a sort you've never heard before. All of the thirteen tracks that are featured on the album were created within the framework of a unified stylistics (which is probably Dreadnaught's very own stylistics). In other words, the features that are typical for each of the separate tracks are also typical for the album as a whole. Here is kind of a brief structurally performing characteristic of this unique work. The eclectic arrangements, filled with the cascades of tasteful and virtuosi solos and riffs of electric and bass guitars, very contrasting interplay between them and a few other instruments, complex time signatures, etc, rush to the accompaniment of truly masterful drumming. The changes of tempo and mood are often truly kaleidoscopic. In other words (or physically speaking), the structures of this album are very unstable - like those of Neutrino, yet, positively. Such a musical sort of abstract algebra is honey to souls of the truly profound Prog-Fellows (i.e. ProGFessors). And all of this is called "The American Standard". However, apart from Country music, the elements of which were adroitly interlaced with the prominent complex structures, the contents of this album are as far from the American musical standards as the American economics from the Pigmy's one. On the other hand, though, the music of Dreadnaught is truly American, unlike Kansas, for example. Also, the music of Dreadnaught is light rather than dark. It's even optimistic in a few episodes, all of which, though, are related only to the motifs of Country. Overall, "The American Standard" album is a real festival of guitars. The riffs and solos of both electric and bass guitars are mostly heavy and harsh. The elements of Progressive Doom- and Thrash-Metal have found their place on this album as well. (Yes, the same elements dominate throughout the music of Voivod in the second half of the 1980s). So the slow and high-speed (like the machine-gun fire) guitar solos and riffs are here along with the wild and intricate arrangements of Fifth Element and a few of those that are typical for Symphonic Art-Rock. Of course, apart from the various electric guitars, there are parts of the other instruments on the album as well. Nevertheless, their roles in the arrangements are for the most part either secondary or just supporting (as in the case of synthesizers). In particular, the excellent passages of acoustic guitar are featured on Deneb (2b), Bunnaschidt (4), Welding (6), Rats & Me (8a), and Clownhead (9). Derby Days (2d), Bunnaschidt (4), an "espionage" song Kim Philby (7), and Rats & Me (8a) contain the piano passages and chords. The passages of violin are well conceived on Ballbuster (1), Derby Days (2d), Welding (6), Rats & Me (8a), and Clownhead (9), while the saxophone solos on The Jester's Theme (2a), and Popeye (3). The wonderful passages of Church Organ are heard on Bullbuster (1). The parts of a few remaining instruments aren't that important. Finally, it must be said that The Jester's Theme (2a), Deneb (2b), Popeye (3), Bunnaschidt (4), Kim Philby (7), Rats & Me (8a), Swing (8b), and Clownhead (9) are songs, and Richard Habib's vocals are featured on all of them. However, since the arrangements are intensive everywhere on the album, these songs are mostly as strong and diverse as all of the instrumental pieces.
Summary. Of course, the monolithic and epic, sidelong (LP talk), Deus Ex Machina (track 2, a-d) is a very impressive composition, though, overall, I loved this album as a whole. I am not a prophet (ProGphet?), but I am sure that Progressive's tomorrow is with the most innovative bands of genre. While most of them, as well as the heroes of this review, are those who, voluntarily or not (which is most likely), today form the nucleus of Fifth Element genre.
VM. March 29, 2002
Dreadnaught discography: 1998 - "Dreadnaught" 2000 - "Una Vez Mas" 2001 - "The American Standard" Actual Size (featuring Justin Walton) discography: 1997 - "Brinkman" 1998 - "Reciprocity"
Red Fez Records:
[ KEY REVIEWS | SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]