There is a new player in a populated South African rock-&-roll scene in the form of DRAGOONS and their debut record, 'Anomaly'. As with any market that appears oversaturated, the best way to attract ears and eyes is to offer something different enough to be unique, but familiar enough to be easily assessable. This album offers a delicate blend of different flavours of rock in an effort to do just that.
There is an “a little bit of this and that” drenching aesthetic theme of this album. That is to say, from song to song the listener is treated to flavourings of different subsets of the rock genre.
Album opener ‘My Name Is Nothing’ ushers in the album with a desert rock feel and sets the sonic tone that flows seamlessly into arena-rock anthem ‘Questions’. The shift between the two tracks is subtle enough as to not be off-putting but it’s apparent after a few listens. The first curveball is thrown into the mix with ‘Words Are Weapons’ that opens with an elegant piano run that would lead one to believe that an obligatory piano rock ballad was on the horizon…but such is not the case. The track breaks into an upbeat ska-esque trot that saunters into a bombastic chorus. Anomaly features these types of stylistic shifts throughout the album that are noticeable to an attentive ear but don’t distract from the overall listening experience.
The musicianship is solid from start to finish. Drummer Jean Marais benefits from an upfront and punchy sound that accentuates the sharp grooves of the band’s rhythm section. There is, of course, no shortage of solos that band members take full advantage of like the acrobatic harmonica featured in ‘In the Machine’ and the soulful guitar licks in ‘Trouble’.
One of the gems of Anomaly comes in the form of the work Talíta Beyl did on piano. At times it dances, at other times it’s just a bed on which the rest of the band rests. Album closer ‘Told You So’ is a show stopper from that perspective and features a piano solo that just works.
Christiaan Rossouw’s vocals are steady, balanced and never sounds strained. He clearly feels comfortable with the material and cuts through crisply. The lyrics aren’t anything spectacular but don’t betray the agency of each song. Themes cover introspection, spirituality and various other topics typically found within the genre.
One of the few drawbacks of Anomaly lies in the rhythm guitars. Certain riffs dictate heaviness at times when the power just isn’t there sonically. That lack of meat in the guitar tone tends to contribute to some sections not landing to their full potential. At other points, the tones just do not match as well as they should. Other than that the mix is balanced and lends itself to being put on repeat for a few hours.
'Anomaly' is what its name suggests. DRAGOONS packed a lot into their debut, but nothing that can’t be handled. At 8 tracks the album is ripe for a straight shot listen, and the songwriting makes it easy to just sit back and enjoy the journey.