Robots And Empire
Cast Shadows on Dragons
posted on 7/2006 By:
So this review is a little late (Cast Shadows On Dragons came out at the end of ’05), but better late than never. Robots and Empire features members of When Dreams Die, as you may know, but you wouldn’t pick up on the fact from their more recent tunes. These guys now peddle an increasingly popular brand of sludgy, metal-infused hardcore first laid down by the Keelhaul/Will Haven/Kiss It Goodbye trifecta and their kinsmen, but they don’t summon up quite as much sonic tonnage as the first two or the kind of blown-fuse-in-the-cranium rage that so endeared Kiss It Goodbye to me. Instead, they attempt a more melodic, Sabbath-infused take on the trudging and thundering. The results are fairly mixed; while there are some memorably slammin’ moments here and there on this album, the majority of it is paint-by-numbers and tainted by some questionable songcrafting decisions.
Conveniently for professionally judgmental sorts, opener “Stampede” serves as an effective microcosm for Cast Shadows on Dragons’s strengths and weaknesses. The song’s main riff establishes a swinging, doomy gait and proceeds to piledrive it firmly through the floor. The almost High on Fire vibe is disrupted when vocalist Brian switches from his reliable ‘core howl to a slightly off-key rocker croon. The song recovers enough to get appreciably slower and nastier, locking into a fuzzed-out stoner trudge. It’s heavy and entertaining, o’ course, but it’s a little played out, and damn if that doesn’t cover just about the whole album. “Hammer Sledge” picks up noticeably after its grating arpeggio’n’mumbling intro, eventually breaking into a genuinely menacing set of loping power chords, while “Effect Depth” never escapes its misguided introspective tone. “Car Chase” is probably the album’s fastest song and Brian manages to keep a little of the sugar out of his clean voice, making for a much more enjoyable track. “Attack of the Firepants” is one of the album’s stronger cuts, driven by a markedly discordant pulse and some of the album’s more interesting rhythms. The pattern holds throughout the album; heavier parts generally mean better listening, but there’s nary more than one or two really noteworthy riffs per song and even those aren’t mindblowing.
Cast Shadows on Dragons is a very meat and potatoes metal/hardcore release, and you can take that as you will. There’s a definite fanbase for this kind of music, and it likely won’t seriously offend any discerning metal fan, but I’ll be damned if Robots and Empire will compete with any of hundreds of more interesting acts in my collection.
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