I like this band’s name. When I was younger I played an online MUD called Achaea. Our characters would kill Orcs and Goblins (and other characters) and the dead would drop shards. We would collect the shards and then go to some Oracle in the forest and place the shards inside. The Oracle would gain power and do something special to protect us. I wasted too much time playing that game. But I still like dropped shards. I like Dropshard too. I like them on Facebook so that’s a fact, Jack.
Their 2010 release “Anywhere But Home” is a thematic piece that tells a story from beginning to end. Some reviewers believe that this is a critical requirement for any band who wants to be considered as progressive rockers. Concept albums are the bread and butter of the prog rock industry. I’m OK with that view, but I also know man cannot live on bread alone. Concept albums can hold a band back. For the advancement of a mediocre theme, many great songs have been sacrificed.
I don’t think Dropshard sacrificed any songs, but I do not have any lyrics or a storyline to follow so I can’t be certain. A quick read of their bio puts my concern to rest. “In 2010 the band gave birth to the concept for their first album, Anywhere but Home, a suite in 8 movements and a bonus track.”
Now I am wondering if the bonus track is part of a different concept- the label telling the band they need a bonus track in order to move more units. For the listener, it’s kind of like reading a novel and you get to the very satisfying ending, and what’s this? Another Chapter? But it doesn’t go with the theme of the story! The story’s over! Who wants to read only one chapter from the second novel? Or is this a chapter you cut out of the story because it wasn’t good enough? This is why I hate bean counters almost as much as lawyers.
Aw heck, let’s just pretend Dropshard was being generous. Calvin and Hobbes comes to mind. After crashing while sledding, Calvin says to Hobbes, “Ignorance is bliss. We don’t want to learn anything from this.” Then they run up the hill to do it again.
I keep doing this with Dropshard. Over and over and over I listen to this album. I can’t understand half the lyrics. There are too many I DON’T KNOWS and vocal moans (only Robert Plant gets away with that), the guitarist often doodles pieces of riffs he learned somewhere else and clunked down, oblivious to the phenomenal music being played all around him.
Boys, it’s time to become men. That is what this review is really about. Potential. Shards of excellence but not the whole crystal. Shards dropped. Shards held high. Brilliant shards held aloft. Fucking amazing shards- SHARDS TOO GOOD FOR THE ORACLE!!!
I think it is time to say this to Mr. Sebastiano Benatti – dude, you are not getting your own music. When are you going to allow your talent to fall INTO the music? Find your Chi, your place is within the music, not in front of it. Think David Gilmour, not Slash. You have the potential to be THE MOST AMAZING BAND ON EARTH. I hope to God you and the bass player weren’t having this same discussion and you kicked him out!!! ;-P
As for you Marco Sago, coming soon keyboardist- you have some large shoes to fill. Thommasso Salleri owned this album- in spite of attempts (perhaps unintentional) to lose him in the mix. Please don’t fire your drummer. He’s flawless. Oh wait, itunes is now playing Fates Warning. Oh dear, you guys have your work cut out for you. Just kidding. Thomas Mangione plays well.
I really like with your music. Great melodies, wonderful harmonies, a melancholy theme that cries out to my soul, and your superior musicianship is clearly evident. Yet on track 6, Changing Colours, you buried a beautiful piano movement so deep in the mix all we get to hear is empty rhythmic music and a too loud bass guitar at the end of eight measures or so- check it out at minute four and see if you agree. I tested it in my truck, the car, the Walkman, the Netbook, and in the studio- same result. Buried.
Watch that flute too. It works well with Tull, but when your music is in crescendo, full of pain, and that thing comes in sounding like Lionel Ritchie it is a little unsettling. Dropshard creates so many quiet mood spaces where the flute could flow in and seduce or haunt us. Well, the Lionel Ritchie thing only happened once or twice.
[Opening track "Look Ahead"]
First, let me tell you which song I love, but don’t really like on this album. The fourth track, A Cold Morning, perfectly defines everything that is right and wrong with this album. The first hook is mildly irritating. English words appear to be improperly pronounced, and yet the best guitar solo of the album is on this song- then there is this brilliant moment when the protagonist (I’m guessing) in the story sings, “You were full of your pride, so why can you sacrifice me? At 2:20 this song TAKES OFF for the stratosphere and I’m riding along as Dropshard achieves orbit.
The band starts grooving on the title track, the keyboardist shows that he has some serious chops, then the song descends into the sounds of war and the most beautiful piano piece of the entire album (that you can clearly hear) carries the beginning of Images of Mind . The band rocks hardest on the first 3.5 minutes of A New Beginning, then settles to bring emphasis for the vocalist…but the build back into the final sung notes…is sweet…except for another redundant “don’t know” before some very nice harmonies.
The final track is atmospheric and nicely takes us out of the album. I really do love this album, warts and all. This band has captured the anguish of a story I know nothing about quite well, their transitions are flawless and their progressions are beautifully woven. They may not realize how keyboard-driven their music is, but truly it is the depth of the keys, bass, and drums that carry this album with power and grace from start to finish.
I just wish when a band decides to make a concept album they clue us in on what it is about, provide lyrics on their website and a synopsis of the story. And don’t say, “if you bought the CD, you would have had all that. This is the digital age, and I paid good money to download this album. All I got was some great music and a lousy jpeg of the album cover. OK, maybe that should be enough. Let me play your album again….right after Amity in Fame and Fates Warning.