Four songs from one of the most original bands around that didn’t make it onto last years album but were still good enough to put out as an EP.
As their by line goes The Dreadnoughts are one part roaring sea shanty, one part haunting folk melody, and a solid chaser of gut-crunching street punk and that is as good a description of them as you could ask for! The Dreadnoughts are truly one of the biggest and most popular folk-punk bands in the world and they built up their audience and reputation from years of absolutely constant touring and four stunning album’s that only cemented their place in our hearts. Formed in the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 2016 from the ashes of popular Irish-punk band Siobhan they changed and adapted their range of influences and soon they had become one of the cities best live bands. After taking on their home town and then Canada it was then time to spread their wings and they soon became a regular feature on the European gig circuit playing everywhere from England to Russia and in between. They didn’t quite leave behind their Irish roots but as the albums flowed it became less of the focus on them and from Legends Never Die in 2007 to Foreign Skies last year they have added the traditional folk music of just about every European country they have visited to the mix and while they still play with the wild abandon of the old days their is much more to them now than just celtic-punk.
Foreign Skies came out at the beginning of last November and takes all those musical influences and again mixes them all up but this time presents them in a concept album about the First World War that is both moving and poignant but, dare I say, also great fun to listen to. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes acapello even with Irish, English and Eastern European folk and polka’s throughout. It could certainly be described as epic in my view.
LONDON CELTIC PUNKS REVIEW OF FOREIGN SKIES (DECEMBER 2017)
This year gave us the ambitious ‘concept’ album, Foreign Skies, from Canada’s own Dreadnoughts. It was released to mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war (yeah, I know, the Great War ran from 1914-1918, so that includes 1917!), and features twelve original tracks all based on events, people and places that were part of that war. There are a few standout tracks, notably; ‘Daughters of the Sun’, ‘Anna Maria’, ‘Jericho’ and ‘Black Letters’. The rest is all good with the usual fantastic musicianship we’ve come to expect from the Dreadnoughts. The subject matter does make it a rather sombre listening experience, and while the feeling/belief behind the album is admirable, there is no getting away from the subject matter. An interesting work, but it won’t get too many airings at parties over the festive season.
The album shows a side of The Dreadnoughts we had never seen before. You wouldn’t think their last album was called Uncle Touchy Goes To College would you? Have they matured? Well on this certainly but I very much doubt we have seen the last Dreadnought song about apple love and cider drinking.
Here we have four songs released on January 10th that didn’t quite make the cut on Foreign Skies. The band give no explanation as to why except to say they “still think they are pretty good and so we are sharing them with you”. Having listened to them the one thing I can report is that they weren’t dropped because of their quality they are as good on anything on the finished article but I suppose they were dropped to not fitting the scope of the album.
We start of with ‘Top Of The Hill’ which is the follow up to ‘Bay of Suvla’ from the album. Written by guitarist Nicholas Smyth it’s a five minute epic of a song taking in many of those influences already mentioned. A driving forceful rock number that is breathlessly typical Dreadnought territory.
“Faces down, eyes to front
you’ll get what you need boys
You’ll get what you want
fingers hard on biting steel
till theirs nothing left to feel
Summer rain gonna set you free
bury the ashes under the sea
and the dawn will break across your skin
And wash away your sin”
It is set during the Battle of Gallipolli. The battle took place only a few miles from the site of the ancient city of Troy but the horrors unleashed in that battle rivalled anything seen then or since. Imagine spending eight months in a trench dug under some cliffs at constant risk from snipers, suffering from dysentery spread by flies hopping from decomposing bodies to your food. The battle was fought in modern-day Turkey but in 1915 it was part of the Ottoman Empire who were fighting alongside Germany. The plan was to land at Gallipolli and take the capital Istanbul. The plan did not work. In fact it was a disaster leaving over 200,000 Allied casualties with many deaths coming from disease. The number of Turkish deaths is not clear but it is generally accepted that they far exceeded 200,000. Next up is ‘Poor Michael’ a song about two blackbirds singing to a soldier ion France. The song is sung acapello without backing. This is something The Dreadnoughts can claim credit for within the celtic-punk scene with many bands now following their lead and including one or two tracks within their sets. As you can imagine it’s a beautiful song with strong voices and even more powerful words.
‘Cold Rain And Snow’ is up next and its a fast and catchy number written by the bands lead singer Drew Sexsmith who was always known as the Dread Pirate Druzil on previous albums. Like on the album the lyrics belie the upbeat music and I’m sure it will take a few listens for the words to penetrate. The EP comes to an end with ‘The Best Of ‘Em’ again written by Nicholas Smyth and its simply Drew accompanied by piano and a faint accordion. The song is a tribute to the best of them. Those that didn’t come home. I can certainly see why The Dreadnoughts put this EP out. They are four excellent songs that deserved a release but they must come accompanied by the album so if you haven’t got it yet then I suggest you get onto it as soon as possible!
(listen to the whole EP below on the Bandcamp player)
Legends Never Die- July 2007 (Golden Tee Record) * Victory Square- June 2009 (Stomp Records) * Polka’s Not Dead- October 2010 (Stomp Records) * Uncle Touchy Goes To College- 2011 (Bellydrop Records) * Foreign Skies- November 2017 (Self Released)
Buy Foreign Skies B Sides
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