Album Review of Dreadnaught: Hard Chargin’ (Red Fez Records)
Rick Habib (drums), Justin Walton (guitar), and Bob Lord (bass) have been at it as Dreadnaught for more than two decades now, and it’s hard to know what to make of them exactly. Sure, you should call what they do “progressive,” but the music on Hard Chargin’ really runs the gamut of what one might expect from a progressive rock album. And then it goes beyond. Not exactly quirky. Perhaps more like eclectic. The band’s style is regularly called experimental rock. And yet, still, at its core, Hard Chargin’ is a chance-taking progressive rock album, clearly rooted in seventies prog rock – if you look at the work as a whole – yet likely to make you question that at any given moment.
The album kicks off with a bang; “Have a Drink With Dreadnaught” is a fun number, charging forward like a keyboard-and-guitar-filled, almost-radio-friendly progressive rocker from the ’70s. “Gaudy Baubles” then follows with a more quirky, funky, funhouse melody, meandering through its own ’70s prog rock neighborhood, again alternately guitar- and keys-driven, mixing in some serious distortion for good measure.
Probably the coolest song on Hard Chargin’ is “Takin’ a Ride With the Fat Man (Fatta Fatta Puck Puck).” Almost barn dance, hillbilly country early on, it progresses through dissonant stages and soaring rock sections during the course of its 8 minutes and 39 seconds, an opus with pauses and soaring notes you might expect from a band like Queen blended together with odd, quirky, funkiness. This song is its own journey. I almost wish there was a shorter “radio version” I could place on some of my playlists (since I’d rather not devote nearly 9 minutes of a personal playlist, one I might listen to during a breakfast out or a walk through a park, to a single track), but it’s well worth the ride when you’re in the mood for it. An interesting work, this song alone is worth the price of admission. But, of course, there are many songs of interests on this album.
If you can make it through the artistically-interesting-but-nonetheless-screeching opening, “Express Delight” evolves into an interesting multi-instrumental journey held together by a chunky guitar line. The brief “Gets the Grease” could easily have been lifted from an experimental jazz release. And “Mummies of the Cobbosseecontee” checks in at 10:42, the longest song in the collection, twisting and turning throughout, harsh guitar entreaties bringing it back to earth amid musical forays eliciting visuals ranging from tropical rainforest to energetic road trip to soaring rocket launches; this is a song that likely only an actual progressive rock musician will be able to fully appreciate, the twists and turns are just so many.
Through it all, in true progressive-experimental fashion, the disc is tied together with a trio of songs entitled “That’s the Way That You Do It.” The first instance, “That’s the Way That You Do It (My Way)” comes early in the disc and deploys a harsh, robotic, rough sound. “That’s the Way That You Do It (Your Way)” is positioned late-mid-album and sports a relatively Hee Haw-ish vocal howl. And the energetic, theatrically rocking “That’s the Way That You Do It (Our Way)” closes the album. It’s cool conceptually, the trio of “That’s the Way” tracks serving as a common thread running throughout the album.
Even after dozens of listens like I’ve given it, I doubt you’ll have a favorite song. You’ll have favorite moments, you may have favorite sections of songs, but it’s difficult to remove a single track from the album. Hard Chargin’ is meant to be enjoyed in its entirety, in order.
For a band that’s described in its own bio as “friggin’ weird” and “utterly deranged” – I’d probably have chosen words like “creative” and “experimental” – this is a noteworthy piece of work. Seriously, if you get a chance, and especially if you like to explore the boundaries of new and unique, primarily-guitar-based, experimental/progressive rock, give Hard Chargin’ a spin. Though it will remind you of ’70s prog rock, I guarantee you’ve not heard anything else quite like it.