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CD Review
Dredg- Catch Without Arms
by Arya Chowdhury
Staff Writer

I'm a latecomer to Dredg. They have apparently been making groundbreaking records since "Leitmotif", which was released in 1998. A friend of mine recommended them to me a while back and, seeing that they had a new CD coming out, I decided to check that out.

"Catch without Arms" is the band's third concept album that mixes fairly accessible rock with fairly abstruse lyrics. There are no breaks between songs; if anything, there will be some white noise followed by an interpolation of another song via manipulated vocal sample.

Since listening to this CD, I have heard "Leitmotif", and there are some striking differences. Namely, while their first album sounded like they were experimenting with song structures and vocal stylings, their latest plays it more conservatively. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as vocalist Gavin Hayes has a wonderful set of pipes that have truly developed with time from screaming. The market is saturated with screamers, so I find it a relief that he felt like he did not need to follow suit, aside from a brief moment in the song "The Tan Bark is Hot Lava". His voice, while similar to that of Tool/A Perfect Circle vocalist Maynard James Keenan, is singular and matches the various musical styles well. For instance, on "Zebraskin", the band lays out a nice soul-informed backdrop laced with tremolo-ed guitar and a bouncy bassline, while Gavin laments, "I wonder why I'm running around again. I took my chances. I may have lost my best friend".

In fact, the simultaneous cohesion of lyrics alongside the diversity of musical styles is what makes this album such a treat. You get the sense that the band can do any style while retaining a fundamental message that does not sound hackneyed or diluted in the process. In the song "Sang Real", slide guitar sounds incredibly natural atop a new jack swing beat when, from seemingly out of nowhere, everything drops besides the drums, an electric piano, and the vocals open, "I'm the addict on the corner, I'm the lawyer in the tower, I'm the body with the coroner; No, the leader with all the power". In fact, Dredg offers up enough that you can tell that they could do anything that they want, yet reel it back in so that their talents complement rather than mangle the songs.

There are not too many weak points about the album, on the whole. However, I will say that some songs sound a little too similar to latterday U2 material such as "Matroska (The Ornament)". Some of the vocal lines and the uncannily Edge-like guitar delays function more to illustrate the influence rather than expand beyond. Another personal gripe is that I know that these guys can stretch out, as evidenced in "Leitmotif", and wished for some songs to develop more than what's on record. However, this is purely subjective, and too much self-indulgent experimentation arguably would have made a less solid album, which is what prevents me from loving the entirety of Mars Volta's "Frances the Mute", for instance.

Dredg has put out a wonderful release that succeeds in being listener-friendly without sacrificing their singularity. Also, when they come to Saratoga Winners on August 18th, I imagine that these songs will sound even better and more vibrant than on disc. If you like their single "Bug Eyes", then you'll love the rest of the album, provided you listen with an open mind.
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