"The whole underlying basis of the lyrics and the music is opposites, contrasts...I'd written some lyrics that are based around conversations or arguments, so we thought about a record with two halves that contrast each other. The whole basis of the record could be about objection to ideas, and contrast."
-Gavin Hayes, vocalist of dredg
Catch Without Arms, the third album released by dredg, has a lot to live up to, seeing as El Cielo was a masterpiece. The album gained the band a cult following, and fans eagerly awaited the first release from the band in 4 years. However, Catch Without Arms proves to be a different release from their previous two efforts. Leitmotif and El Cielo both felt like albums, with tracks flowing into one another and liner notes that tell the story of the album. Catch Without Arms, although having a defining concept, musically feels only like a collection of songs. There are a few connections throughout the album, such as Drew's nephew singing the lyrics for Planting Seeds through an answer machine on Not That Simple. While other dredg albums basked in variety, Catch Without Arms derives from one sound that, in itself, is completely new to dredg. All of this sounds disappointing and bland, however, it is not. While the album sounds, as a whole, similar, each song is recognizable and the riffs never sound much like each other. The similarities come from the often used delay effects by Mark Engles, Drew Roulette's sparse and jumpy basslines, and Gavin's soaring vocals. They never really stray from these habits, and therefore making similar sounding songs as a whole.
The album opens brilliantly with Ode to the Sun. Foreshadowing is a huge concept on the album, and faintly, one hears Gavin singing the lyrics to the song before the delayed guitar enters. After the guitar, the song suddenly lets all the gates open and brings out an intense, quickly strummed chordal riff. The guitar gets a bit quieter to allow Gavin to sing at full force for the first time. The vocals draw opposites immediately, comparing angels and darkness, light to grey, and many other things. The prechorus pulls in a more meditative feel before exploding into the deeper chorus. The chorus actually rocks pretty hard, something dredg somewhat abandoned in El Cielo. Following the second verse and chorus, the song enters and instrumental breakdown, with the drums relying heavily on bass drum kicks. The delayed guitar intro returns, Gavin begins singing, and finally bass adds in with a great bassline. Mark strums a chord and Gavin sings the first line to the chorus with nothing underneath him before the band re-enters on the second line. Dredg shows they've mastered the use of pop-hooks, making the album much more accessible than their previous efforts.
The album continues onto Bug Eyes, the lead single, where Gavin pulls out his lap steel guitar to play the main instrumental theme that arpeggiates upwards. The rest of the band adds in and plays the main chord progression underneath. In the verse, Dino picks up the intensity by doubling the tempo. Gavin sings a bit lower in his register, which is still somewhat high since he is a pretty high up there tenor naturally, and keeps the energy up along with Dino. A bass fill leads into the prechorus where distorted guitar enters. The prechorus meshes perfectly into the chorus. Faintly, strings and sparse piano lines can be heard, just added for extra effect in the production studio. Another verse and chorus run through. After the chorus, everything drops out except drums and piano. Live, Dino plays the two at the same time, which is pretty amazing. Gavin sings somewhat restrained and held back, singing about how he has wasted tons of time. The song builds up with lap steel guitar slowly climbing until releasing and playing the intro riff once more. The chorus is repeated once more with much more intensity, especially from Dino, who hammers all of his drums at full strength.
A song that diverts from the typical sound on the album and also closes Perspective 1, or the first half of the album, is Sangreal. Sangreal is unlike anything dredg ever recorded. Sangreal features an electronic drum beat and a repeated piano line. The band must like trip-hop or something, the influence from it shows. Starting with the drum beat and a simple guitar line, the new sound comes at just the right time. The guitar drops out and the piano enters as one of the catchiest piano lines Dino has ever recorded. Gavin sings, with some sort of slight echoing effect put in his voice. At the chorus, guitar enters and the piano starts playing chords. Gavin's voice returns to normal. The intro riff returns to break up the chorus from the second verse. The lyrics are completely and all about opposites, with examples like "friends yet still a loner," "local but a foreigner," and "addict yet I'm sober." The second chorus brings in the appearance of a real cymbal playing quarter notes, not noticed unless one tries to find it. The bridge is an instrumental section featuring the piano once more, going down by thirds in chords. The bridge is short, heading right back into a final reprise of the chorus. Strangely, following the chorus, there is a minute of multiple voices, including one that sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks, laughing.
Catch Without Arms makes a new face for dredg, a more accessible dredg. However, this also shows that dredg has versatility, adding yet another sound in their repertoire. In 3 albums, dredg have evolved from a raw, aggressive metal sound to an artsy, dreamy sound to an accessible, catchy, yet still incredible sound. The band plans to release a new album in 2007, and a live album and making of Catch Without Arms DVD later this year.
Ode to the Sun
Not That Simple