Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Dagger - Death Metallers Go Back To A Melodic Metal Place In Time

The Dagger is a side project that appears to be becoming much more than that for this group of Swedish death metal all stars. They've been writing together for several years, all the while looking for the right voice to present their thoughtful reflection on the sounds of classic '80s metal, and in Jani Kataja, they've obviously found the right guy.

Their self titled long player is a great listen, and I hope they've only begun. Guitarist David Blomqvist is a stunner, and he worships at the alter of Blackmore, Roth, and Murray, and his riff writing is top notch, especially when one takes into consideration just how tough it is to write in a genre which has been on tap for over 30 years. Sure, he completely apes the guitar/keyboard solo from a Rainbow classic on their very first track, but it's old enough so that only a few of us dinosaurs will recollect it, and some kids will hear a ripping good musical interlude.

Jani Kataja came to the band after the album had been written, and it's to the singer's credit that he owns this material so well. He didn't even know the star status of the other members in the world of death metal, so he came in on equal footing and he acquits himself in fine fashion, especially when they slow things down on Ballad Of An Old Man. This tune is an organ driven dirge that rocks just enough to not sound soft. Puts me a bit in the mind of Glenn Hughes' time in the Sabs, and there's another beautiful guitar solo with nice harmonies from Blomqvist who thrives in this genre.

There's no question that everyone in this band is strongly steeped in the metal of the late seventies, and eighties - they quote liberally from the past, but in a most charming manner. A different band could piss me straight off by doing this, but this stuff sticks to the bones. It's so well played, and performed that it's just a blast. I would hope when they take to the road (and I hope they do), they're able to augment their four piece to cover all the cool keyboards and guitar harmonies onboard here.

I wonder just how much of this is straight homage, as Skygazer is like a great lost Rainbow, and Electric Dawn is straight Priest, but it's done so well, dammit. I'm loving this, but I'm really anxious to see where they take this - with Kataja writing his own lyrics and melodies, and the right producer to mind the board while they work out the magic in the same room (mind you, this is very well engineered). 1978 is a tune that evokes memories of the greatness of that era's Scorpions. Well done, gentlemen.

Inside The Monolithic Dome starts off with some Uli Rothian harmony guitars, but quickly moves into a bit of a darker vocal that suggests some stoner psychedelia. This project reminds me a lot of a band called Stone Axe, a side project of Mos Generator frontman, and classic rock renaissance man Tony Reed. It's clearly very derivative of a certain place in time, and certain key players from that time, but rather than kick the band's ass over this, I'm more inspired to congratulate them on not just their re-tooling of this glorious past, but in propagating and continuing a royal lineage.

I've not mentioned the rhythm section of drummer Fred Estby, and bassist Tobias Cristiansson, but they are top shelf - they play their roles perfectly, and a lesser section would have destroyed this project and turned it into something sad. Instead, they do not for a moment make you miss the timekeepers of the past, and that speaks volumes.

Gentleman - take the ball and run with it. You're of to a hell of a charming start, and you're mining gold. Take this thing on the road if you can!

To the potential listener, I'd say buy this one. It will make you smile all summer long, and give you something to look forward to later.

4 of 5 stars

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