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(107:33 2CD / Big Balloon Music & Red Fez Records)
Prolusion. With this double-disc outing, "High Heat & Chin Music", American band DREADNAUGHT launch their 10th Anniversary. This is a kind of "Best of" compilation, although besides selected tracks from each of their previous recordings, it also features five previously unreleased numbers, all being their latest creations. Click here to see their discography with links to the other Dreadnaught-related reviews available on this site (all of which are done by Vitaly, as personally I was until now unacquainted with the band's work).
Disc 1 - "High Heat"
TRACK LIST: 1. Three Things 2:34 2. Popeye 2:24 3. R Daniel Olivaw 3:07 4. Royal Jelly 5:27 5. Rats & Me 4:35 6. She Got the Bony Cleave 2:22 7. Gulf of Tonkin 1:06 8. The Boston Crab 2:22 9. Tiny Machines 4:27 10. Bunnaschidt 4:51 11. Kazak - The Hound of Space 0:54 12. One Trick Pony 1:51 13. Nag Champ-a-laya Live 6:57 14. Derby Days 8:30 LINEUP: Bob Lord - basses; keyboards; vocals Justin Walder - guitars; keyboards; saxophone; vocals Rick Habib - drums; vocals Tim Haney - drums Andy Happel - violin
Analysis. Dreadnaught play experimental progressive rock with quite a unique overall sound, which is most often beyond comparison as regards other artists. To a greater or lesser degree, many songs seem to be linked with blues, some having sections that are dominated by features of that style. The other relatively major influence is indie rock, but there are also some country and western-tinged motifs to be found here. In addition, the band undertakes quite a few trips to some scantily explored territories, investigating different types of experimental music. What sets Dreadnaught apart from many other prog rock bands is how well they mix their numerous stylistic influences, often merging them into one unique whole, though their craftsmanship in both composition and performance can also serve as an example for many. Most of the fourteen songs on Disc-1 are properly complex, revealing quite a few turns and twists, featuring plenty of moves where harsh, quirky guitar riffs adjoin melodic guitar leads which, in combination with often fat-and-heavy bass lines and the pounding drumming, create an eclectic musical intrigue with a strong identity to it. Even most of the short songs are quite intricate, featuring changes in style, mood and pace all alike. Before I start on listing the prevalent (or rather instantly recognizable) stylistic ingredients of the tracks, I should mention that the majority of the pieces have also some degree of a distinct avant-garde quality to them. Three Things is a blues-based hard rock song with elements of country, though violins and synths provide also symphonic colorations, as they also do everywhere they appear. Popeye is basically in the same style, but saxophones add a funk component to the fusion. R Daneel Olivaw can be perceived as something halfway between rock, electronica and jazz-fusion. The instrumental Royal Jelly and the song Rats & Me both have too many styles to cite here, nearly ever-changing compositions, abundant in dramatic transitions, that keep the listener thrilled from start to finish. She Got the Bony Cleave comes across as a mixture of punk, glam rock and experimental stuff, whilst Gulf of Tonkin sounds like an eccentric rock jam, with rolling bass, quirky guitar and inventive synth effects making the tune quite a fascinating journey despite its shortness. The Boston Crab combines 70's style psychedelic hard rock and fusionesque landscapes with country-evoking moods. Tiny Machines is blues-based hard rock and is dominated by staccato playing. Bunnaschidt ties together funk, indie, hard- and jazz-rock modal constructions. Kazak the Hound of Space is a brief piano improvisation, while another short cut, One Trick Pony, stands out for its eerie organ sounds and distorted guitars. On the live version of Nag Champ-a-Laya, the band perform improvisational jazz-rock, not afraid of dissonance when necessary:-). The disc's curtain scene, Derby Days, while bearing some obvious signs of The Beatles' influence, overall represents quite a resourceful synthesis of hard rock, fusion and electronic with a certain futuristic feel in places. The tracks on the first disc are all either good or excellent, though personally I find R Daneel Olivaw and (yes, the brief) Gulf of Tonkin to be the most innovative of the lot.
Disc 2 - "Chin Music"
TRACK LIST: 1. Ballbuster 4:29 2. Fickie 3:08 3. The Drill 1:18 4. Danny 4:31 5. The Jester's Theme Live 6:47 6. James Thresher Industries 0:56 7. Welding 4:54 8. Stinkytown 4:29 9. Clownhead 5:26 10. Elba 4:40 11. The Elevator Chaser 5:40 12. Deneb 2:42 13. Clean Your Act Up Son 4:29 14. Women Are Kryptonite Live 3:01
Analysis. Beginning with the same number of tracks and concluding with its overall (think trans-) genre orientation, Disc-II appears to be almost identical to the first one, so the entire edition comes across as a set of twins in a way, and I must tell you it's a really nice pair. The poly-stylistic Ballbuster imbues me with a poetic mood, so please don't upbraid me for describing it with this kind of distich: It's a mood, style and pace shifts galore with the intricate guitar work at the fore. Messengers of rock, funk and avant-garde (conflicting, bordering-on-a-dissonance themes) all take part in this musical funfair, merging together into one eclectic fusionesque jam in the finale. Fickle is more of a blues-based hard rock song with some refined harmony vocals. Dominated by bass and guitar, The Drill explores a melodic theme for just over a minute. The next tune, Danny, starts out slowly, but from then on varies in pace, standing out for its funk-style guitar and some cold synths during its second half. The band's live variation on The Jester's Theme is another piece reflecting the melodic side of their spectrum, but this time around with a distinct jazz tinge to the music. James Thresher Industries is an intensely evolving piece with King Crimson-like disharmonic constructions, quite a few counterpoint melodies and some positively frenetic guitar soloing. Welding is a quirky piece with a plethora of transitions and some pleasingly contrasting combinations of moods and styles, with occasional country invasions:-) into the matter. Stinkytown is a more laid-back composition with a lot of indie-rock influences, though still not without intricate maneuvers either. With a lyrical content perfectly reflecting its title, the song Clownhead is another highly eventful musical affair, exploring a variety of styles and themes, at times reminding me of a very avant-garde interpretation of The Beatles. Elba begins as dreamy, mellow art-rock with a light fusion feeling, but soon evolves into a wonderful psychedelically avant-garde substance with organ as the main driving force. The Elevator Chaser has odd lyrics that unfold over the musical landscape where the band seem to exert every effort on transforming country into something multi-stylistic, whilst on Deneb they are focused on exploring realms of industrial. Clean Up Your Act Son combines indie-rock-style music and Beatlesque vocal harmonies with offbeat humour in the vein of Monty Python. Dominated by quirky guitar and chunky bass, Women Are Kryptonite is a sort of structured freakout reminiscent of Frank Zappa. As with the first CD, all the tracks here are overall outstanding. Personal highlights: James Thresher Industries and Deneb.
Conclusion. With 23 tracks picked from the previous releases, listeners unaware of Dreadnaught will get a good impression of the band, and five new creations will see to it that their existing fans get value for money too. "High Heat & Chin Music" is an excellent release that strongly appeals to lovers of experimental, avant-rock and boundary-defying music, beginning with Frank Zappa aficionados.
OMB & VM: January 2 & 3, 2008
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