2 April 2017

Dreadzone - Dread Times

Dreadzone - formed in 1993 and releasing music which focuses on dub, reggae, experimental electronica, a bit of rock and folk, all mixed together to create something which always stands out from the crowd.  They seem to be a collective who are not afraid of change, have experienced tragedies, but who have made consistently good music.  In the UK, they are best known for the 1995 album 'Second Light' and the song 'Little Britain' which used a sample of the film 'If....' (and has nothing to do with the comedy show, it was released before that TV show).  Their latest album 'Dread Times' is their first album since 'Second Light' to make the UK top 40, which is a big deal for this band (well, it is in my eyes).  It shows that after all these years, that there is a section of the public who cares about what this group is doing.  This is the third release from their own record label, Dubwiser Records, and is reflecting upon at the current mood of the world and trying to make sense of it; this review looks at how successful they have been at accomplishing this.

01 - Rootsman

With a sample of thunder, a crow calling and Armageddon rumbling in the background, the song starts off slowly with a distance chanting, percussion and then the dub finally drops and it makes such an impact from the opening moment of this album.  Heavy roots with a rhythm that will make you want to dance and a bass that could fill a hall with such power, the song is about returning to your roots and it is such a glorious beginning.  It is hypnotic and attention grabbing from the very start, such a powerful opening song.

02 - Mountain

The mountain in this song could be either physical or psychological, but they are obstacles that must be overcame, because the view from the top can be breath taking and can clear your mind of all issues.  Musically, I adore this song as it catches the spirit of the band and delivers on so many levels; it is an inspiring song about determination, never giving up and it feels just so right.  No matter what I right here, it will not do it justice.

03 - Battle

With an announcement to the nation, 'Battle' feels so rich in sound that it could be a rally call.  It focuses on the affliction that we are all laden with - life.  Some people live for a short time and burn bright, some are here for longer and it is all relative.  It is another strong song, one which works on different levels, but it works best when played loud and with the speakers rumbling.  Three songs in, so many fine moments already.

04 - Escape

When this song starts, it feels like it has more layers than the previous songs, but it is just another facet of this band's amazing sound.  This song is about depending on yourself, not outstaying your welcome and being self-sufficient; I love that message, it also helps that it has such a great sound to it and it makes those rumbles that make the hairs on your neck stand on end.

05 - 16 Holes

'16 Holes' is heavy on the electronica side of the band, those trance themes to the music are dominate and at the front for this song; it is a good song, but it does not click for me as much as the opening four songs.  It is good song and it has a hard message with samples of people being killed by idiots with guns, but it is not a song which I find myself engaging with as much as the other songs on the album, although the rap on it is very good.

06 - Black Deus

'Black Dues' is a song which is full of energy musically and it is another call to arms as the oppressed will not be given freedom, they must take it by any means necessary from the oppressor.  This has a few samples, so gorgeous vocals and the music, oh deity, the music - this song is such a strong and powerful number that works on so many levels.  You can tune out with it, listen to its strong message, just experience the rumbling bass, drift with the keyboards and let it all flow; what a song.

07 - Music Army

'Music Army' keeps up that keeps up the energy and drive of the band, a song about being a band that is self-sufficient; the focus on this one is on the music which is the perfect for me.  You can lose yourself in the imagery the sounds evoke as if you are going through the desert and there is nothing but horizons all around.  It has a lovely Spanish guitar riff going through it, those hypnotic synth sounds, that percussions that make the world bounce and the bass at the centre of all of it. 

08 - Area Code

I love this song, it is dripping with energy and style that it could be taken from the album and used as a piece of art!  I love everything about this song, I think I might be slightly delirious with the sound as it is on repeat due to the way I review albums (four times in a row, then repeat the songs as I am writing about them), this song is one of the best piece of music on this album, it is actually my joint favourite song - I do not thing I have had this situation with the blog when I have two songs which are the best, first time for everything when the music is this good.

09 - Keep It Blazing

After some of the best material of this album, 'Keep It Blazing' feels like a pause for breath at this stage. It strips a lot of the sound back, retreating to a subtle and basic tune and it makes a lot of sense.  There is a message about keeping the flame alive and that is also a brilliant message.  However, much like '16 Holes', it can be mood driven for me - at times I am loving the groove, at times I am non-committal; still a good song though.

10 - Never Going Back

'Never Going Back' is a song about moving forward, never looking behind and facing everything that is coming towards you head on.  It has a trance feeling to some of the music, but then the bass is so heavy (as always) and it has such a positive, infectious feeling that is impossible to resist.  I keep returning to it, such a great song.

11 - Where Is My Friend

With a sound that is as gentle as a breeze, this song seems to be about DJ Derek, the Bristol DJ who disappeared in 2015 and was sadly found dead nine months later.  It is a gentle, beautiful and reflective piece that is such a beautiful tribute.  Of course, I could be reading it wrong and it could be about someone else; but I have a feeling that I am not.  Either way, a glorious number none the less.

12 - After the Storm

The album ends with a chill zone instrumental that is so easy to immerse your mind into, you lose can feel the worries and pains of the day drifting away as it emerges from the speakers.  It has a gentle and positive feeling behind each note, beat, pulse and horn; it is the come down to reality that this album needed, it is the perfect ending for this record.

One of my friend's put it best when he called this album "a lovely kind of retrospective of all their styles over the 20 odd years"; I think that is probably the best description I have heard about this album since its release, from one of the guys who is pretty much spot on when it comes to bands.  The record is one of those moments where it works on so many different levels and it blows your mind with each repeated listen.  I love that there is a darkness to this record, these are dark times and you need someone to speak up and whilst there might be a couple of tracks which do not work for me all the time, I cannot fault the album at all and I think it is in the mix for our album of the year. Do yourself a favour, invest, investigate and play loud (bass heavy rumbling)!

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost...

Top tracks - Black Deus; Area Code

You can purchase Dread Times on Amazon here.

You can visit the Dreadzone website here (which also has a webstore where you can purchase the album)

You can follow the activities of Dreadzone on Facebook here.

You can stream Dread Times on Spotify here.

You can stream Dread Times on Deezer here.

You can stream Dread Times on Tidal here.

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