Dreadnaught-Hard Chargin’. 

Label: Red Fez Records.

For over twenty years, high-energy power trio Dreadnaught have spent much of their time touring America, and have played in more than half of the states of the union. Audiences in each state have been fortunate enough to hear Dreadnaught play songs from the various critically acclaimed and award-winning albums that they’ve released since 1998. Each and every one of these albums has been different from the one the preceded it. That comes as no surprise.

Ever since Dreadnaught were founded in 1996, they’ve always been determined to experiment, and push musical boundaries to their limits and way beyond. The result has been album after album of ambitious and innovative music from this truly versatile band. Dreadnaught is, and have always been, a versatile band, who are capable of switching seamlessly between musical genres. They have to be.

What very few people know, is that Dreadnaught also own a company that records and releases contemporary orchestral and chamber music, and haves composed and produced music for international television commercials, radio programmes and independent films. They’ve also collaborated with some of music’s heavy hitters, including Pete Townsend, John Entwistle, Tony Levin, and NRBQ. As a result, Dreadnaught need to be versatile, and capable of playing different types of music.

That has been no problem for drummer Rick Habib, bassist Bob Lord and guitarist Justin Walton who founded Dreadnaught over twenty years ago. Since then, much has happened to this power trio who seem to take pride that they defy categorisation. Dreadnaught’s music doesn’t fit neatly into one genre. Instead, an album usually straddles several disparate genres. Then the followup will be totally different.

It seems that every EP and album is a step into the unknown for Dreadnaught. That is no exaggeration, as even after two decades making music Dreadnaught continue to break new ground. Proof of this is their recently released album Hard Chargin’ which was released on Red Fez Records. Hard Chargin’ is an epic experimental album of Prog-Americana from Dreadnaught. Their career began back in 1996.

The members of Dreadnaught met whilst they were studying at the University of New Hampshire in 1996. Within two years, the band released their eponymous debut album Dreadnaught, in 1998. Two years later, in 2000, and Dreadnaught returned with their sophomore album Una Vez Mas. This was followed by Dreadnaught’s most ambitious album.

By 2001, Dreadnaught’s music had moved in the direction of avant-rock. They were an avant-rock powerhouse who released their critically acclaimed and award-winning album The American Standard in 2001. This made people sit-up and take notice.

That was no surprise. On one track on The American Standard, the members of Dreadnaught decided to overdub flamenco-style clapping onto a track that features  drum loops, nylon-string guitar and bass. Soon, the recording studio became a musical laboratory, where Dreadnaught could experiment,

Over the next few years, Dreadnaught spent much of their time in their musical laboratory. It was time well spent. Each album was different, and Dreadnaught were becoming a talented and versatile band. They relished their time in the studio, experimenting and pushing musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, it seemed, way beyond. 

Three years after the release of their critically acclaimed, award-winning album The American Standard, Dreadnaught returned with their much-anticipated fourth album. The electronic-inspired Musica en Flagrante was released in 2004, with the explosive double album Live At Mojo following in 2005. This was important date in the  history of Dreadnaught.

In 2005, Dreadnaught became the house band for The Music Hall/New Hampshire Public Radio series Writers On A New England Stage. Over the next few years, they wrote and arranged music for a variety of different authors, artists and philosophers. This ranged from Dan Brown who joined the band on piano for a cover The Beatles’ Birthday to legendary singer-songwriter Patti Smith, to authors John Updike, Stephen King, Salman Rushdie and politician Madeleine Albright. These are just a few of the many well-known names that Dreadnaught provided a musical accompaniment to on a programme that is heard by hundreds of thousands of listeners across New England. All these listeners have come to appreciate and enjoy Dreadnaught’s musical accompaniment. However, that is just part of the story.

Dreadnaught has crisscrossed America, and played in over half of the states of the union. They’ve also shared the stage and collaborated with some of the biggest names in music, including Pete Townsend, John Entwistle, Tony Levin, and NRBQ. However, when Dreadnaught aren’t playing live, they’re recording new music.

This includes their 2007 album High Heat and Chin Music. This was followed by two EPs, 2013s Have A Drink With Dreadnaught and 2015s Gettin’ Tight With Dreadnaught. These albums and EPs have been released to critical acclaim and won the band a number of awards. The most recent addition to Dreadnaught’s discography is Hard Chargin’, which was recently released. It marks the welcome return of a truly talented band.

Drummer Rick Habib explains a bit about the making of  Hard Chargin’. “As a group, we’re not writing songs in the traditional sense, not trying to get the world to sing along…We like to make people want to dial in and pay attention, to make them laugh.” 

Bob Lord agrees, and says the purpose of Dreadnaught is: “pure enjoyment and amusement for fans of oddball, far out, intellectually acute music.” Making this music is an escape from the music that the members of Dreadnaught make between 9 to 5. Dreadnaught is: “definitely apart from our day jobs even if they are in the music business.” Hard Chargin’ is also a reminder of growing up in the seventies, and the music the members Dreadnaught listened to and the television programmes they watched. All this has influenced their new and ambitious genre-melting album Hard Chargin’. So have Rush, Fugazi, Frank Zappa, Steely Dan and even George Jones and Willie Nelson. They play their part in the album that marks the welcome return of that inimitable high-energy, power trio Dreadnaught.

Have A Drink With Dreadnaught explodes into life and opens Hard Chargin’ in style. Choppy, blistering guitars join washes of organ while the rhythm section powers the genre-defying, multilayered arrangement along. Atop the arrangement sits Rick’s powerful vocal, which is sometimes augmented by harmonies. Meanwhile, a piano, organ, percussion and some particularly impressive machine gun guitar riffs are added to the stomping, progressive anthem. Suddenly, it’s the seventies all over again. Later, the arrangement becomes understated before rebuilding and becoming melodic. By then, elements of seventies progressive rock combine with Americana and classic rock as this impressive musical potpourri reaches a memorable crescendo.

Lysergic, dubby and cinematic describes the introduction to the instrumental Gaudy Baubles, as it shimmers and meanders along. Soon, it starts to reveal its secrets, and in the process, this instrumental showcase Dreadnaught’s versatility. In doing so, Dreadnaught creates another flawless multilayered arrangement. It features a fusion of disparate music genres that are combined seamlessly and become a vibrant musical tapestry. To create it, Dreadnaught play with speed, power and fluidity switching between time signatures and styles as they fuse elements of progressive rock, psychedelia, classic rock, folk and jazz during three minutes. This os long enough for Dreadnaught to create an  ambitious and innovative genre-defying opus.

That’s The Way That You Do It (My Way) is only 1.41 long, but that is long enough to for Dreadnaught to innovate.  A chant of: “that is the way that you do it” gives way to thunderous, dramatic a rocky backdrop. Soon, it’s all change and searing mid-Atlantic guitar glides and soars above the arrangement. By then, Dreadnaught have seamlessly combined theatre and drama with music that is melodic, progressive and rocky.

There’s an Eastern, cinematic sound to Takin’ A Ride With The Fat Man (Fatta Fatta Puck Puck). It’s as if it’s a track from a long-forgotten soundtrack to a low-budget movie. Soon, it’s all change as the drums power the arrangement along and the tempo rises. A searing guitar ushers in an organ and close harmonies, that bring to mind seventies Southern Rock. Dreadnaught march to the beat of the drum, while blistering guitars are unleashed. So too are brief soliloquies before the tempo drops. After this, they revisit the earlier freewheeling Southern Rock and augment this with the influence of 10CC and later, Queen. Seamlessly, Dreadnaught switch between genres and as the tempo ebbs and flows and the time signature changes. Still, though, it all makes sense, including the lengthy drum solo that brings back memories of the seventies, when this was de rigueur. From there, this genre-melting track rebuilds, and melodic Southern Rock gives way to choppy, urgent driving rock as the track reveals the rest of its secrets. It’s been an epic journey, with Dreadnaught fusing psychedelia, Southern Rock and progressive rock with avant-rock, classic rock and free jazz to create a tantalising and heady musical brew.

Express Delight is another lengthy track, and opens with an effects’ laden Hendrix inspired guitar solo. It’s joined by the rhythm section and saxophones, before it’s all change. The arrangement becomes an experimental soundscape, where elements of avant-garde, experimental and post rock combine. This shows another side to Dreadnaught. At the heart of the action is the effects’ laden guitar, and lush, cinematic strings. This is a clue that things are about to change. They do, when a jazzy saxophone joins the piano and rhythm section. The saxophone takes centre-stage until the blistering guitar returns.Dreadnaught become a high-energy power trio, as the arrangement ebbs and flows, and they switch between fusion and rock. Later, Dreadnaught harmonise before a flute, keyboards and blistering guitar enjoy their moment in the sun. However, it’s the guitar that plays a starting role in this eight mine genre-melting epic.

As That’s The Way That You Do It (Your Way) unfolds, country-tinged describes the song. That is until it takes on a much more experimental sound, that is reminiscent of the soundscape that featured during Express Delight. Later, there’s a return to the country-tinged sound, as Dreadnaught with their tongue in cheek, pay homage to country music.

Gets The Grease is another short song, but allows Dreadnaught to showcase their versatility during this piano lead song. Soon, a jazzy saxophone soars above the arrangement. Meanwhile, the hypnotic piano plays. Later, the track heads in the direction of free jazz, with Justin Walton playing a leading role in the sound and success of this musical amuse-bouce.

The multilayered, genre-melting arrangement to Slave Girls meanders along, slowly revealing its secrets and subtleties. At first, there’s a cinematic sound, before heading in the direction of rock. While the rhythm section provide the heartbeat, a blistering guitar accompanies the vocal. Soon, the guitar is multi-tracked, before the lead guitar and drums playing leading roles as seamlessly Dreadnaught switch between musical genres. This they do without missing a beat. That is a result of twenty-one years playing together. Seamlessly, the cope with changes in tempo, signature and style as the music veers between rocky to ethereal, and reminiscent of ELO in their seventies pomp. By then, Dreadnaught has switched between classic, progressive and avant-rock with diversions via folk and jazz. Latterly, Dreadnaught’s music ranges from ethereal and melodic to progressive and inventive. It’s been an impressive journey.

Just hi-hats and drums combine on Mummies Of The Cobbosseecontee and accompany bubbling, braying sounds before it’s all change and keyboards play. Meanwhile, the drums sound as if they’re from a drum ’n’ bass track. They’re joined by sci-fi synths and a guitar that veers between funky to fusion and soon, rocky as Dreadnaught throw a curveball and combine elements of heavy and progressive rock. Later, Dreadnaught add handclaps and machine gun and scorching guitars to their powerhouse of a rhythm section. Seamlessly, they cope with changes in tempo, style and measures. Midway through the track they even strip the track bare, with only the drums and then guitars remaining. Gradually, it rebuilds and Dreadnaught showcase their considerable talent and versatility during the remainder of this near eleven minute epic, that allows plenty of room for invention and experimentation.

Closing Hard Chargin’ is the third version of That’s The Way That We Do It (Our Way). It’s a bright, breezy and memorable fusion of pop rock and avant-jazz that is over way too soon. However, it closes Dreadnaught’s comeback album Hard Chargin’ on a high.

Hard Chargin’ marks the welcome return of Dreadnaught after two years away from the recording studio. The comeback Kings return with a bang, with Hard Chargin’ a genre-melting opus that defines categorisation.

There’s elements of Americana, avant-garde and avant-jazz, plus country, free jazz, and pop rock on Hard Chargin’. That is just part of the story all. There’s also elements of avant, classic and progressive rock plus folk, funk jazz and psychedelia. To that, adds hints of electronic and experimental music in this musical tapestry that Dreadnaught wove in their recording studio. The result is the most ambitious and innovative album of their twenty-one year career. 

Dreadnaught reach new heights on Hard Chargin’, as they switch seamlessly between different musical genres and spring a series of surprises. Indeed, there’s many a surprise hidden within Hard Chargin’s multilayered arrangements. They continue to reveals their secrets with every listen to this captivating album, where Dreadnaught showcase their talent and versatility on Hard Chargin’. This Dreadnaught have been doing for twenty-one years. However, it’s two years since the release of the Gettin’ Tight With Dreadnaught EP in 2015. Hard Chargin’ marks the welcome return of the comeback Kings Dreadnaught, with a genre-defying opus, that features the high-energy power trio at the peak of their progressive powers.

Dreadnaught-Hard Chargin’. 


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