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Dropshard: Anywhere But Home

Freedom Supermarket

Italy is a country that's always had a pretty strong prog metal scene, and Dropshard is now the latest addition to that list. Taking influences from the traditional American school of progressive metal and then adding plenty of influences from neo-prog and atmospheric rock, this band has definitely gotten off on the right foot with Anywhere But Home. The band was formed in 2007 and completed two demos before releasing their debut full-length, Anywhere But Home, in 2011. This is a strikingly mature and beautiful work of art that can be looked at as one of the best progressive rock/metal debuts in recent memory. People who enjoy progressive metal with touches of ambient and a neo-prog flavor will definitely want to check out this top-notch band. This album took a few listens to really "grab" me, but it was certainly worth every single one.

Anywhere But Home is an album that doesn't seem too original on the surface, but, in reality, Dropshard's sound is quite unique. Taking the atmosphere of Marillion's masterpiece that was Brave and seamlessly blending it with the sound of progressive metal legends like Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation, Dropshard has successfully created an album that significantly distances itself from the seas of Dream Theater clones. The music itself is highly enjoyable, and filled with memorable compositions, instrumental prowess, and beautiful harmonized vocals. Picking a highlight is difficult since the album (aside from the final bonus track) forms a conceptual story that feels more like one piece than 8 separate tracks. In terms of musicianship, I especially have to give a nod to Enrico Scanu for the terrific vocals. The atmospheric keyboards from Marco Zago are also impressive; his playing style can often be compared to Mark Kelly (of Marillion fame). The guitar playing from Sebastiano Benatti is pretty diverse - he can transition from metal riffs to Gilmour-influenced solos in the blink of an eye. The rhythm section isn't too shabby either; the bass playing from Alex Stucchi drives the band perfectly, and Tommaso Mangione's complex and refined drumming is also noteworthy. Overall, this band sounds professional and experienced. It's almost hard to believe that they're so young, and that this is only their debut album.

The production is also very professional, while maintaining a raw and clean sound throughout. This is the perfect sound for virtually any progressive rock/metal album.

Conclusion:

Anywhere But Home really took me by surprise. Every now and again an obscure modern group will pop up on your radar that really has something special; Dropshard fits this description like a glove. Although I'm confident they will improve even more as time passes by, this is certainly a far-above-average album well deserving of 4 shiny stars. People who enjoy bands like Marilion and Pain of Salvation should definitely give this promising Italian act a spin - you won't regret it.


Track Listing:
1. Look Ahead (1.23)
2. Anywhere but Home (6.23)
3. Images of Mind (6.00)
4. A Cold Morning (4.19)
5. Again (1.09)
6. Changing Colours (8.17)
7. A New Beginning (5.06)
8. Look Behind (1.24)
9. Freedom Supermarket (4.28) (Bonus Track)

Added: March 18th 2011
Reviewer: Jeff B
Score:
Related Link: Dropshard Website
Hits: 2426
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Dropshard: Anywhere But Home
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-03-18 17:38:29
My Score:

Based in Milan, Dropshard are a five piece progressive rock/metal outfit who after impressing in a succession of unsigned band events, landed a deal with UK label Sonic Vista Music. After having lived with the band's debut album Anywhere But Home for a few weeks, it is easy to see why. Progressive metal is probably the best description for what these Italian lads are trying to do, but that does not mean that they are Dream Theater clones, in fact they are pleasingly far from that stereotype with instead a sound that relies more on an aggressive take on the introspective prog of Riverside. The fact that singer Enrico Scanu is more than slightly similar to Riverside's Mariusz Duda certainly adds to the comparisons between these two bands and the little stabs of guitar and swathes of glorious keys only accentuates it. However unlike the Polish outfit, Dropshard bring a far more riff focused identity to their sound and also are decidedly more upbeat in a way Riverside would never dream of.

For the genre we are talking about here, Anywhere But Home is slightly short at just over forty minutes (not counting bonus track "Freedom Supermarket", which adds another five minutes or so), then add to that an intro track that is more atmospheric than music and a short closing track that is basically the sound of wind blowing through trees (actually at lower volume it sounds like complete silence, which is rather frustrating) and this is a short disc indeed. That said in the time Dropshard do have, they make a significant impact. The album is a concept disc where the songs segue into each other and covers a story of life and social framework, also suggesting that we are all searching for something that is ultimately under our noses. I'm not sure about that idea, but the music makes up for any deficiency in the concept department by bringing together gloriously hard hitting, yet melodic riffs, punchy keyboard flurries and enveloping passages that range from the frantic outro of "Images Of Mind" to the beautiful vocal layers and acoustic strumming of "Again". That latter track continues into "Changing Colours", before that song picks up the pace into a determined march. A very Marillion like mix of piano and synth then takes on the melodic theme, before Riverside-esque riffs and a dancing keyboard motif alter the focus again and all the while Scanu adds his syrupy tones in a manner that really embellishes the guitars provided by Sebastiano Benatti and the keyboard work of Tommaso Selleri. It is quite a feat to have so many different emotions and themes running through one song, but Dropshard accomplish it in style, with only the odd manic vocal coming close to losing focus. Thankfully it's a knack that is shown across this whole album and whether it is the sparring instrumental section of "Images Of Mind", or the fantastic percussion and bass work (courtesy of Tommaso Mangione and Alex Stucchi respectively) during the impressive and welcome bonus track, there is always something going on to draw you into this ever changing album.

The only down sides to this album are that certain sections do sound rather too close to a few other bands and that it is all over far too soon, however considering that this is a debut release and that the quality of the song writing and musicianship is universally high, then these are pretty minor quibbles. Definitely a band to keep a close watch on.



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