Creating an album to directly follow El Cielo
was always going to be a difficult task for dredg
. They decided to take a risk by simplifying and 'commercialising' their sound; the result was Catch Without Arms
, an album full of euphoric guitar lines and vocal hooks that provides a great antithesis to the deep, emotionally draining nature of their previous albums. At the same time however, the extreme variation seen on El Cielo
was lost to a certain extent, with a lot of the songs on the album following the same structures and styles which can unfortunately hold the album back from achieving its true potential.
It kicks off with Ode to the Sun
, opening with a melodic guitar line that easily could've been ripped straight from a U2
song (in a good way), before the rest of the band comes crashing in while Gavin's vocals soar over the top. Once again Gavin's voice has undergone some changes, he now sounds more powerful and confident, capable of projecting his voice over the instruments with ease. The song drifts through a simple 'verse-chorus-verse' structure, with a quiet bridge and powerful ending. It's the perfect opening track: full of energy, and introduces the band's new sound. The following track, Bug Eyes
, keeps up the same style and structure, with an uplifting chorus and catchy opening slide guitar riff. It's also the album's only single, even though any and all of the songs on offer could easily have been singles as well, though this is as much a con as it is a pro.
For me, this is what holds Catch Without Arms
back the most: there's little variation regarding song structure, which can make the album rather predictable. Each song follows the same 'intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-end' structure which can make the album seem repetitive after a while, it also results in some occasionally cheesy and annoying songs. For example, Zebraskin
often make me cringe with their over-poppified, irritating melodies and repetitive lyrics. Having said that, there are also some genuinely amazing songs on offer as well.
The aforementioned Ode to the Sun
and Bug Eyes
are both album highlights, though Jamais Vu
, The Tanbark is Hot Lava
, Hungover on a Tuesday
and the title track
are equally as great for different reasons. The Tanbark is Hot Lava
and Hungover on a Tuesday
are both adrenaline-fuelled, high-energy tracks that showcase the intense musicianship of the band extremely well. In comparison, the title track is rather chilled out but just as exhilarating nonetheless, with its catchy guitar melody and uplifting chorus, only to feature some heavy-ish riffs when the bridge comes about. However, the award for best song on the album goes to Jamais Vu
, which manages to balance all the album's pro's into one five minute track. It's euphoric guitar melodies, catchy basslines, powerful drums and soaring vocals epitomise everything great about Catch Without Arms
, and stands as one of the best songs the band has ever produced.
While not as strong as El Cielo
, Catch Without Arms
is still a great album full of brilliant songs. It had the potential to be just as good as it's predecessors but is unfortunately marred by a few mediocre tracks and repetitive song structures. Still, this was the reasonable evolutionary step for dredg
to make after El Cielo
; what do you do after you make perfection? You make that perfection known to the world, a feat they somewhat achieved with the release of this record. The only thing they could do now was to expand their fanbase by further commercialising and poppifying their sound, a feat they definitely achieved with their next album a few years later.