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Reviews

Kolkata Outfit Dreadhammer Might Have One Of The Best Metal Albums Out Of India This Year

9.0

album Reviews Sep 11, 05:45pm

‘SOVEREIGN’ shows just how good an album can be just by being sincere

Besides being one of the genuinely nicer listener bases around, metal fans are often also quite exacting in what they want from the music they love. It’s a funny old genre of music; the relationship between the art and the listeners usually has some expectation of the ‘purity of the form’ to it. That sentence is funny because of how brutal and heavy and dark some subgenres of metal can be, but all the while there’s this unspoken metric of ‘tired/boring’ or ‘excellent’ (or even ‘too weird’); measuring how well an artist develops and executes a well-established sound. Dreadhammer is a Kolkata-based band, and their fantastic album ‘SOVEREIGN’ falls in the ‘excellent’ category without a shred of doubt.

Dreadhammer has been at it for more than five years now, and ‘SOVEREIGN’ is their debut album. It’s rooted mainly in thrash metal and maybe has some further influences from a couple of genres, but it sticks to its base for the 40 minutes of music on here. Besides the songs themselves, there are a few interesting decisions the band takes that contribute to how well the listening experience works.

Firstly, it’s packaged well – almost every track is under five minutes in length and doesn’t even reach the point where you would start thinking ah, this might be dragging a bit. The production makes things sounds clear as a bell; you can clearly hear a sort of separation between layers of instrumentation. This will sound sterile to some people, but not annoyingly so. And most importantly, the band is under no assumptions as to what they set out to do on this project, which is to pack every second of every song with as much energy as possible. It’s a thrash album! If you go into it expecting anything else (experimentation, out-there-ness and so on), you might just be missing the point.

 

 

So, what would you wish for? Riffs, precision, fantastical subject matter, bursts of flash, clear but distorted tones? This album does every one of those things well. ‘Ascension’ is an atmospheric guitar intro, the first minute of which is the only time you will have to breathe, because what follows feels like a near-continuous stream of music that solely wants to bash your head in (in a good way, obviously). Big rhythmic guitar playing, fast kicks, a solid range of vocal presentations, the whole thing. From ‘Atomic Pulse’ onwards, it’s basically the same idea but on roids. The bass tones are massive, the riffs are actually pretty nicely written while maintaining what cultured listeners might call ‘le chug’. There’s some awesome playing all over this thing; the last minute of the song has an especially tasty groove in a sea of them.

The flow of the album is so well done that by the time you look at the tracklisting again, it’ll probably be the rock-metal combination of ‘Spectres’, which is the sixth song on the album. In between, you’ll have heard the more classic rhythms of ‘Back From The Void’, the skull-bruising pound of ‘Cold As Ice’ (we love ourselves a half-switch in a thrash song, don’t we?) and the furious speed of ‘Master of War’ (the band lets the bass sing more than usual on this one). But there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t even notice, because that run of tracks is one unrelenting block of neck-ache. ‘Might Of Chaos’ kicks things right back into high gear with some of the more straight-forward writing on the album (and yes, there’s a blastbeat on this for a few seconds).

 

 

‘Last Man Standing’ might be the only slightly repetitive tune on here; the band does reach into their standard bag of tricks once too many times. The closer ‘Colors Of Despair’, on the other hand, is surprisingly far removed from every other song on the album. Melody drives this song and it gives itself the appropriate time to breathe. You’ll find clean vocals, a more laid-back arrangement (y’all remember early Baroness?), and even when it gets heavier in tone, it doesn’t try to change much up. It just stays as this one big compositional monolith, and that’s an interesting way to end an album.

‘SOVEREIGN’ is good for primarily one reason, and that is the fact that Dreadhammer does not try to reinvent anything on this album. They mentioned an ‘all killer no filler’ approach while writing it, and it works out really nicely. This album is not for pushing boundaries or changing the genre; in fact, this kind of music does not necessarily need any earth-shattering change or innovation (unlike some others). This album just takes its ideas and does them supremely well. So prepare to not be disappointed at all.

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