Wednesday 25 March 2015

Problem With Dragons - Starquake (Album Review)

Album Type: Album
Date Released: March 10th 2015
Label: Self Released

Starquake - Track Listing

Wizard Mode 03:38
Starquake 09:06
We Have Us 05:39
Sideways 05:18
Something 05:35
Atomics Pt. II 05:58
Ground Zero 06:29
Both Hands 06:13


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Problem With Dragons. So what type of band would you think would call themselves this? Pagan Metal or Power Metal. That's what I thought when I a friend of mine recommended them to me to check out. I thought he was having a laugh at my expense. Though it turns out the joke is on me as Problem With Dragons is a brilliant Sludge/Stoner Metal Band who have just released their debut album - Starquake. Another thing that almost turned me off this band as I thought the album was named after a Transformer or something. 

Joking aside - Starquake - is one of the best unexpected surprises I've had in a really long time reviewing albums. As I didn't know what to expect from this album. What I got was a loud and violent exercise in heavy riffs with a very dangerous addictive edge. Problem With Dragons sound is very hard to describe. Parts Stoner, Sludge, Punk, Hard Rock, Doom, Grunge Classic Rock, Heavy Metal and Prog Rock. This is a band who knows how to defy musical genres and give it the middle thing it richly deserves.

Opening track - Wizard Mode - is pure heavy destructive rock and roll in it's most purest form. As the band branch out into pure punk based Stoner Rock carnage with hints of violent psych rock being beating up in the corner just for the fun of it. The vocals are more of the clean based variety though you can hear strands of in-your-face punk rock waiting to burst out. Shades of digitized sounds provide a more rounded experience as the band project a sound that feels it's almost coming to life. It gives you a brief glimpse on what to expect for the rest of the album.

Second track - Starquake - is the albums standout track - 9 mins of distorted Hard Rock/Metal vocals lead the way for an exciting Sludge/Stoner/Space Rock journey that feels like the music that Mastodon should actually be making themselves for their last few albums. Problem With Dragons create a rich tapestry of different noises and riffs where it can be very hard to keep up with at times. When the band start adding Over The Top distorted vocals you feel the album turning into a more sinister progressive metal affair. That's one of the albums strengths as it changes it's identity without a care in the world. It shouldn't really work but Problem With Dragons pull this off with conviction and style. The band even finds the time to add a creepy ambient synth sound to leave you feeling someone is watching you from afar.

Third Track - We Have Us - carries on the frenzied and schizophrenic affair with the band focusing on both style and substance. It's more of a straight-forward Sludge/Stoner Rock song with the riffs being interlaced with a Thrash style sound and the vocals feel that they're being projected from a different world or universe. It's to the bands credit they're not afraid to take risks on their debut album and to show people there’s a lot more to their music. The lyrics can be very hard to work out at times. My advice, just sit back and enjoy the crazy ride. It will be easier in the long run. Fourth track - Sideways - has a more classic grunge feel though it's still crazy as heck. It's one of the albums other standout tracks as the band once again pack so many insane and great ideas that had me questioning what am I listening to. The only answer I could come up with was - a brilliantly written debut album that demands your full attention.

Progressive Sludge/Stoner Metal is the main key here as the band lay down some of the albums most impressive riffs and vocal delivery. The twin delivery of the guitars and vocals has a slight Thin Lizzy/Mastodon kind of vibe but still maintains the crazy and twisted vibe of the band itself. Other songs for the band to confuse and delight you with include the remaining four tracks - Something, Atomics Part 2, Ground Zero and Both Hands as the band unleash more stunning riffs to slay you with.

Ground Zero and Both Hands will probably impress the most on the 2nd half of the album as Problem With Dragons are not going to let this album end without a fight. The 2nd half of the album sees the band venture more into Psychedelic Rock/Metal territory. It's still a noisy and exciting experience as Starquake is an album you will be listening to for days on end. Problem With Dragons maybe a very hard band to categorize but Starquake is an essential album to own. If you want something exciting and original in the land of Sludge/Stoner Metal then you will find this album very hard to beat. Brilliant!!!

Thanks to the band for the promo. Starquake is available to buy on DD now.

Words by Steve Howe

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