From New Hampshire USA comes this spectacular trio of musicians known as Dreadnaught. Though they've released three full length albums over the past couple of years, they are only recently making a big splash in the progressive rock and jam-band underground. The American Standard is actually nearly two years old, but on the back of this CD, the group have toured extensively and are preparing to release their first full length live album in October. So what do they sound like? Well the band themselves refer to their music as "progabilly". More specifically, if one took a bit of The Grateful Dead and Phish and blended the intensity and symphonic compositional style of King Crimson and Yes, one would get a pretty good idea of the Dreadnaught sound.
The American Standard wastes no time getting into it with "Ballbuster", which sounds a bit like Crimson's "Red" on speed while swished around in a blender in some New Orleans cocktail lounge. This out of control instrumental is practically guaranteed to have the same effect as that of three cups of coffee. It quickly becomes apparent that bassist and band leader Robert M. Lord is an absolute monster musician and his loud, trebly bass playing is one of the identifying trademarks throughout the CD. Thankfully, the others in the band are just as accomplished and drummer Richard Habib and guitarist Justin Walton do a commendable job in keeping up.
"Deus Ex Machina" takes a similar classical music approach as Yes did with "Close to the Edge" by utilizing a four part sonata form for a twenty minute piece of music. However, that's pretty much where the comparison between Dreadnaught and Yes ends. In fact, as "The Jester's Theme"-or section 1-begins, I'm reminded of The Grateful Dead's "Missippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo" from Wake of the Flood. A lazy swinging style introduction gives way to a manic passage before the first vocal stanza. I won't attempt to describe every part of this suite as I don't want to ruin the musical surprises. But it's a very satisfying twenty minutes that never overstays its welcome. A little swing, some funk and all around great jamming can be expected.
One of the nice things about the CD is its pacing. Dreadnaught very successfully follow up their epics with some nice sixties style psychedelic pop tunes like "Popeye" and "Rats and Me". The latter is actually part of "The Pumphaus Suite", which isn't pumphaus in the least! "Welding" is a really nice instrumental tune with some more unexpected twists and turns and some cool fiddle courtesy of Andy Happel. The CD closes with "Clownhead", a delightfully loopy piece of music with Crimson like textures surrounded by some surprisingly accessible vocal passages.
The American Standard is one of the best American albums I've heard in a very long time. I'm sure their live show would be a hoot. It's refreshing to hear an American "prog" band that sounds so…American. This definitely isn't the type of music one hears emanating from Sweden. Great stuff!