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Dragon's Kiss - Barbarians of the Wasteland

Dragon's Kiss
Barbarians of the Wasteland
by Chris Hicklin at 15 September 2021, 1:48 PM

Seven years after its original 2014 release, DRAGON'S KISS have reissued their debut, as an apparent omen of new music to come our way soon. I say debut although the notion is somewhat redundant as it is their only album, and now it is available again on Firecum Records, in a funky gold and black vinyl release. Drawing its aesthetic from the one-percenter biker culture, the album lyrically evokes visions of apocalyptic futures with marauding bands of road warriors engaged in feudal battle in decimated wastelands. Singer Adam Neal (of HOOKERS) claims the Hunter S. Thompson gonzo journalism classic Hell's Angels as a major influence on him. In that book Thompson got to the heart of the (allegedly) criminal biker gang, and swept away in their often brutal culture, before overplaying his hand and getting "stomped". Neal has grown up around bikes and bikers and there is a similar sense of authenticity about his work.

They do not waste any time getting proceedings under way. The first track “Barbarian” kicks off with a blistering guitar solo from Hugo Conim over a rollicking NWOBHM style riff, an emphatic start by any measure and being a fan of blistering guitar solos a welcome one. One of the first things that strikes about the band's style is the vocalist's voice. It's a sing-shout style of performance, with a slightly nasal delivery, imagine if Udo and Cronos got fused in some weird Star Trek transporter accident. The riffs are tight, and the solos precise and well measured, this band has obvious pedigree in this style of music.

Next up we have “Ride for Revenge” a hard chugging riff that would not be out of place on a PRIEST record, and the higher pitched vocals have more than a hint of Halford about them too. Also kicking off with a guitar solo, this song is good, but not too distinguished from the first.

Ride ‘Til You Die” once again kicks off with some guitar soloing, but this time we find ourselves more in a full throttle MOTORHEAD type riff, Neals’ strangled vocals work really well on this track and lots of air time is given to impossibly fast and harmonizing tapping solos, the guitar work on this album really is very impressive.
Wild Pack of Dogs” is straight out of the early MAIDEN playbook but with much heavier production, a solid romp one could imagine finding on one of the Di’anno albums, but nothing earth shattering.

Ironically it is on an aptly selected cover of a MARQUIS DE SADE track named “Somewhere Up in the Mountains” that their musicianship shines most brightly. This is expertly performed, and a superb song. The bassist allows himself to roam more freely, and they bring a progressive feel to the piece. It is here we see the potential of Neal's voice. He drops the throatiness and bellows at us with a powerful, and melodic delivery. This is where they have managed to bring the most light and dark, and variety of shade to their performance. I can't help but feel the rest of their material would benefit from this more natural voice. The guitar soloing is epic on this song. This is one of the highlights for me, which is not to impugn their own material in any way.

Next up we are back into DRAGON'S KISS material, with “Castle of the Witch”. This is a driving track, thunderous drums with a stoner like guitar riff in the verses, giving way to a more power. It’s powerful and peppered with the usual great guitar licks and fills we have come to expect.

Track seven is the second of the two covers, "Rock’n’Roll Soldiers," originally performed in the mid 70s by THE NEW ORDER (not that one!). Obviously this is massively heavier than the original release, but it is nevertheless very much in the spirit of the original release. A humorous reminder that rock will live forever, even into the apocalypse.

Finally we have the titular track, "Dragon's Kiss". This song has a really nice introduction, it's quite different to the rest of the album, with a shimmering acoustic guitar backing to a sleazy hard rock riff. It quickly gives way to ferocious drums, with one of the most memorable vocal melodies of the album, with a great chorus of power chords and drum fills, and vocals winding their way around these. It brings back the acoustic theme several times, and the result is certainly the most diverse and inspiring track on the album. The song is the only one of the album to fade out, not usually an approach I favor, but as the guitarists furious arpeggiating disappears into the past, it an feels appropriate way to end an album that looks to a bleak future, but does so with a healthy dose of fun.

Overall I would say that the album is a great effort. It's a little slim perhaps, clocking in at 40 minutes, but only 32 of those are the band's own material. The covers are well done, but seem to have been included at the expense of original songs. This album could have done with a couple more DRAGON'S KISS songs, which are really very good. The songs are never labored, they do not repeat ideas over and over again simply to achieve longer run times, which many bands in the genre are guilty of. It's lean and mean, I just wish there was a bit more of it.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Barbarian
2. Ride for Revenge
3. Ride 'til You Die
4. Wild Pack of Dogs
5. Somewhere Up in The Mountains (MARQUI DE SADE cover)
6. Castle of the Witch
7. Rock 'n Roll Soldiers (STOOGES cover)
8. Dragon's Kiss
Lineup:
Adam Neal - Vocals
Hugo Conim - Guitars, Bass, Drums
Record Label: Firecum Records
     


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