Review Summary: With just 10 songs The Dreadnoughts have set out to prove that Celtic Punk can be more than just a cheap gimmick.
Since the dissolution of The Pogues in the early 90s, Celtic Punk has traditionally been dominated by two bands, the working class Boston punk of the Dropkick Murphys, and the more traditional sounding Flogging Molly. Not coincidentally these have been the only two bands in the genre to have received any critical attention at all, as many other bands that style themselves "Celtic Punk" are derivative at best, and third rate ripoffs at worst. There are, however, some notable exceptions, bands that have flown under the critical and commercial radar, while managing to be among the best in the genre. The Dreadnoughts are one of those bands.
Victory Square is only the second release by The Dreadnoughts in their 4 years of existence, and they've grown in leaps and bounds since the release of their debut, Legends Never Die. Unlike most Celtic Punk bands The Dreadnoughts have taken less influence from traditional Irish folk music, and instead draw more from old sea songs and shanties. On Victory Square, however, they've expanded their influences to include Russian and Gypsy style music as well, as seen in album highlight Samovar, a roaring raving piece that features one of the most frantic, energetic violin parts in the genre. Other songs featuring the new Eastern European influence are the stomping, piratical Boneyard, and the intsrumental track The Skrigjaargen Polka.
That's not to say that The Dreadnoughts have abandoned their nautical influences, not by a long shot. Two of the best songs on the album, Grace O'Malley and Eliza Lee have heavy influence from the old sea shanties. Eliza Lee in particular shows how much the Dreadnoughts use this style,as it was originally a sea shanty first written in the 1800s. Staying true to the original spirit of the song, it is sung as a traditional shanty, with no instruments and the band doing a call and answer with the vocals. Grace O'malley is probably the track that best fits the description Celtic Punk on this album, and it is one of the best examples of the genre to be found. With an anthemic chorus and a violin part that is nothing short of excellent, this song stands as one of the best in the genre.
The general atmosphere of the album isn't easy to pin down. Songs go from the fierce energy of Samovar to the whiskey and amphetimene soaked world weariness of the title track to the raging joy of Grace O'malley. But through it all the Dreadnoughts have made a sound all their own. While certain tracks may be weaker than others; such as album openers Hottress and Ivanhoe, the only tracks really not worth listening to, they still manage not to sound stale, in a genre that is much too full of cheap knockoffs and rehashed material. So, while they may never receive the critical attention of their more established peers, they have managed to produce an album that easily stands up among the best of the genre.