Dagger Down – Dagger Down III – Album Review
Good LORDY – is this MEATY or what? You can’t beat the deadly rumble of the bass as Dagger Down’s latest record starts out with “Echoes On The Stone” – no joke folks, you feel the low-end head straight for your soul and the weight in the atmosphere at the same time – III is gonna bring the heaviness y’all. Not even kidding…I’ve spun this record many times over, and the rugged surge into the beginning of their new album always got me reaching for the volume to turn it in the right direction – “Echoes On The Stone” is as immediately enticing as you want the gateway in to be. Murky, mysterious, haunting, and gloriously well-structured to deliver tightly from its very first seconds through the chorus hooks to the wild solos, and gripping ending – there’s no question it sure as hell sounds great to have Dagger Down booming back out through our speakers again this year. Fifteen tracks in a lineup is an undoubtedly ambitious endeavor for any artist or band to take on…and we’ll get into that more later on down the road here in this review – but suffice it to say for now that, “Echoes On The Stone” is the kind of cut that should get ya mightily stoked on what else might be to come on Dagger Down III with its stormy sound.
One thing that’s certainly a common thread that ties together a lot of the music in this three-piece band’s material, or at least from what I’d personally experienced in the past on Dagger Down II in review last year, is their penchant to simply rock right out – and I’d never begrudge them that joy. Because make no mistake, that’s what tunes like “She Is My Lady” would be for Dagger Down – a source of pure joy – a reason to get those amplifiers cookin’ – a cut where you can just let’er loose & let’er rip, and supply the reliable good times you know the people dig, and that they love as well when it comes to generating real Rock vibes. Sure there’s always gonna be an argument to be made in trading a bit of substance for something more straight-ahead, but like I said from the get-go, I ain’t gonna be the guy to tell ya to stop doin’ whatever it is you so obviously love to do…and to me, there’s no mistaking that Dagger Down is always 100% invested in every tune in the way they play their material, because they genuinely ARE stoked on the music they make – take a cue from that attitude independent scene! I’m not opposed to “She Is My Lady” – but I can easily concede that Dagger Down will show you much more depth scattered throughout the lineup of songs to follow. If we’re talking about tunes that’ll get the bar cranked-up with the energy…well then right on, they’ve got something that’ll work out just fine for that purpose…or a track you’ll wanna turn up on those long drives down the highway crusin’ – that’s the kind of Rock song we’re talking about here…and there’s no denying that it’s a suit this three-piece wears well.
“The Machine” delivers on a truly comfortable & smooth melody that hits the mark quickly, and clever transitions lead the way to this song providing that much more detail to what could have been a whole lot simpler, and I really dig that here. When it comes right down to it, Dagger Down is sure capable of an entire plethora of what we all love in Rock music from its early heavy history on-forward; it’s tunes like “The Machine” that reveal the versatility of their many influences early on in this set-list and how they’ve been able to create a hybrid style to proudly call their own through their clever combinations. Love the melodies burning out from the guitar and the perfect level of distortion you’ll find in the tone – love the switch into the effects of the vocals and that first transition, as well as the soar into serenity straight afterwards. Like I was tellin’ ya earlier, there’s a lot of depth in this lineup overall, and “The Machine” is one of the songs you’ll find exemplifies the vast range of sound/style that Dagger Down incorporates into their own tunes. They know the history of the roots of Rock, and they know how to get the best out of themselves when they’re at their most creative – and if “The Machine” doesn’t prove that to ya early on in the lineup, which it SHOULD – I can still promise ya they’ll prove it by the end of III.
I’d be looking at “Don’t Tell Me” as a potential single to put out there for sure…you get to the chorus hooks here and it’s pretty undeniable that they’d be a huge win with listeners out there – fantastic energy from Dagger Down here without question. Excellent guitar solos, solid & steady rumble in the ol’ bass-lines, drums that deliver bang-on, and vocals that never quit from the lead to the thick of the harmonies. Personally, I think they’ve got something that flexes an extremely cool part in the writing here – it’s almost like they’ve got a break in the middle of their own chorus in a way, that separates two-halves by a mere moment, but shifts the level of addictiveness in the sound from a ten to a full eleven. Or you could look at it like they’ve damn near written three chorus-worthy parts of a song, and then found a way to string’em all together perfectly, even daring to call one of’em a verse! There’s no question that these guys execute on a highly professional level, and the balance of strength between them really shows Dagger Down in the greatest of lights throughout the tightness of a song as bulletproof as this cut is. Fantastic personality in the way this band performs…that’s never in question really – but when it comes to the writing, design, and attention to detail…right down to the Rs rolling off the tongue of Lawrence’s lead-vocals, is as tight as tight can be and no stone is left unturned here.
I’ll say this like I always do around these parts of the internet…context matters. Like, I’d get it if you just tuned into Dagger Down III and you randomly walked into the room when “Maybe It’s You” was on, and you’d never heard the band before…sure, things might seem a bit strange, and you might not even ‘get it’ – you dig? It’s within the context of listening to a record on the whole that tunes like “Maybe It’s You” end up bringing something to the overall experience, and give you a glimpse of the depth in the diversity of their style & sound through a more low-key moment here. And I’ll tell ya what, I’ll even concede that, at times, in the verses, I had tours through this album myself where I didn’t always get 100% sold by everything I heard in terms of whether or not it would work for listeners out there, but at the same time, the chorus is straight-up mesmerizing and a huge highlight on this entire record, the instrumentation is as solid as we know it to be, and the band really puts a ton of passion into this cut. I dunno…call me crazy, but I think there’s a uniqueness in the way Dagger Down does what they do that’s still more than able to bring people in to the versatility of their music with just a slight bit of time & experience to get into it all & listen. “Maybe It’s You” might not be my own number one cut from Dagger Down III…but it would be foolish not to acknowledge they’re tapping into something extremely cool in the way the title is delivered in the hooks of the chorus here…that part’s absolutely memorable – and I also really loved the way the instrumentation & sound selection continually ramps-up in the finale.
I really dig the production these guys are getting on the heavier side of their sound – “No Way Out” is a spectacular example, much akin the boldness that the record starts out with on “Echoes On The Stone.” Dagger Down sounds deadly in these moments…all seemingly despite how genuinely nice these guys seem to be behind the scenes when the amplifiers are switched off – at the end of the day, they’re a band that likes to jam, loves to rock, and they continually bring an inspired spark to their material, even in the darkest & murkiest of vibes like “No Way Out.” There’s just no denying the powerful sound they’re rockin’ with as “No Way Out” begins – and if anything, lightening up the vibe afterwards almost rides the fence of being too bright for a moment, before you hear the chorus hooks come out much closer to the fit you wanna hear. With its most comparable cut on this record likely being “Echoes On The Stone” at the beginning…ultimately I’d probably side with that being the stronger of the two tunes with this enormity in the moodiness & stormy sound…but I’m certainly more than fine with having both. They’re rockin’ with authority and big, bold tones in the thick of the shadows on “No Way Out” and the impact of that definitely can’t be discounted…I’ve got no problem giving this cut another thumbs-up.
And then there’s even like…what IS that…is that a…Jefferson Airplane-esque style of slightly psychedelic sound creepin’ into the melody of “Rock Me Down” would ya say? Maybe a little Pink Floyd sprinkled into the mix for extra atmosphere? Perhaps this song is a distant cousin…but the comparisons aren’t without merit, you’ll hear it likely both in the music and in the vocals too – but you’ll also find that there’s really never any one influence that prevents Dagger Down from sounding 100% like Dagger Down either, and they should all be seriously proud of that fact. Drums, lyrics, guitars + space in the music to let those spectacular tones ring out…those elements would all be on my list of what makes “Rock Me Down” connect the most. All-in-all, I think it’s a really strong tune that also happens to be sitting in the hardest spot within the entire lineup of songs to fill in coming between the booming mayhem of “No Way Out” and the flashy charisma that fires up with “Voice Without A Name” follow. Just because “Rock Me Down” doesn’t sound like it could beat ya for your milk money like “No Way Out” or take you for a ride down the Las Vegas strip like “Voice Without A Name” does afterwards doesn’t mean it should get its proper recognition by y’all listening out there…Dagger Down reveals a ton of depth in their instrumentation, writing, and overall ideas in some of the cuts that aren’t necessarily just gonna punch you in the face for your attention, you feel me? “Rock Me Down” is one of those.
With that being said though… Alright…so…I’m just gonna say it as plain as I know how to say it – to me, a lot of the key to connecting with the music of Dagger Down, and how your ears will likely cue you in as to what’s gonna be a good song or a great song that connect with the ears out there, will quite often be revealed mostly through the bass-lines and the energy you’ll find in’em. As in, the more ‘into it’ this specific instrument seems to be in the performance or in the mix, the more the rest seems to spring to life surrounding it – and tracks like “Voice Without A Name” generate immediate interest as a result. Love the keyboards in the mix of this cut as well…the skills you’ll hear in the solo are sharp as a razor’s edge – you just don’t get enough keyboard solos in today’s world, and Dagger Down has done their level best to help restore justice & rectify that deficiency in our music scene by the way they play this finale. Solid rhythm in the vocals through the verses…and the solo that occurs early on right away around the one-thirty mark should prove that they’re not messin’ around here folks – they’ve got stellar ideas for how to structure & design their music from start to finish in ways that’ll definitely keep ya listening. And don’t get me wrong…overall, I really felt like Lawrence in particular stepped his game up on the mic for this new record in several noteworthy ways…some I’ve already pointed out, and there is still his best yet to come that we’ll get into later – but equally undeniable, is just how much I enjoyed their spectacular array of instrumentation, colorful neon-vibes, and real Rock grooves in the final minute of this track. They LIGHT IT UP at the end of “Voice Without A Name” and quite possibly give this song the best finish you’ll find on any of the tunes that line the set-list on Dagger Down III.
“Outta Here” will give ya something that sits comfortably in between The Kinks & Van Halen, with a splash more heaviness in the mix to give it some real kick to it. I have no bones to make about this being a bit further away from my own personal taste when it comes to those comparisons and the relevance in relation to the way “Outta Here” moves & grooves with its flashier design…but admittedly, I never found myself even close to reaching over to pass over this tune either, so you can factor that in too. I’ll put it to ya this way…there are still some incredible things to come on Dagger Down III that I know about right now that you still don’t…and in many ways, a track like “Outta Here” has me wanting to push their buttons a bit more to make sure they remember they’ve got an arsenal of creativity to draw from when they want to. That’s the key…and no, I’m not suggesting every song out there has to change the entire game or be that dramatically different from something else we’ve heard in the past – sometimes people just wanna rock, and I get that – but by that same token, I’m willing to acknowledge moments that don’t push the boundaries as hard as they perhaps should be…”Outta Here” is right on that line for me. What I’d say is this…while neither “Outta Here” or “Down In Chinatown” are ultimately any less well-played than the rest of the tunes you’ll find on Dagger Down III, if there’s a spot on the record that you might feel kind of starts to develop that wear & tear on ya a little, it’d likely be around here for a few listeners. Lest we forget – in total, there are fifteen tracks on this album…to have gone through the whole distance from start to finish without losing a single listener for even a solitary moment would be more than a monumental achievement, it’d be a near impossibility – for anyone. As I’ve said many times…the amount of perfect records I can think of with more than ten to twelve tracks on them…truly flawless & engaging from start to finish…I’d have to sit here & do the math after a heavy sift through the ol’ collection but I’d be willing to bet the count would still fit comfortably on one hand. Even ‘greatest hits’ records can’t pull a lengthy lineup off entirely without a hitch…as close as you might get, you’re likely to dull one of the incredible tunes in the process of having that many lined up together as well…there’s really no winning in this regard. For example, “Down In Chinatown” – excellent guitars…and overall, I’m not even saying I don’t dig the vibe it has or the end results – but are there more engaging cuts when taking a step back & looking at the record from a distance? Perhaps. If you’re looking at a lineup of ten cuts and you’ve got this, you roll with it for sure – but if you’ve got fifteen, unless you’re somehow certain they’re all completely bulletproof from start to finish…which again, would be beyond rare for any artist or band…then it’s probably best to be as brutal as possible, cut a couple tunes, put’em on out as bonus tracks for the diehard fans or what have you, if only in effort to preserve the overall playability & repeat value of a record as a whole. Don’t get me wrong – every one of the songs we write & record are our babies it’s fully understandable to wanna keep’em all…I’m just tossing things out to be considered. But you gotta ask yourself sometimes – does it really JAM…like “Winter Lion” does right away with our listening ears & connect through compelling sound with that spark we’re lookin’ for?
Because I felt like this was another really solid cut on the record, that’s for sure. “Winter Lion” does have a push/pull energy to it that’s gonna make it a bit more demanding for the everyday listeners, and I get that – but I’d also charge that the energy, spark, and allure in the song’s brightest moments are one of the strongest spots of universally appealing sound you’ll find anywhere on Dagger Down III as well. A quick ten-second drift into the intro, and right after, you’re off & running with an energy & rhythm that’ll keep you in lockstep with it, even through the many transitions, twists, and turns this track will go on to make. Just LISTEN to that guitar solo around the two & three-minute marks & how they own the finale with the confidence in their instrumental approach once again – you’ll find that works wonders every time these guys choose to use that mix in the recipe they’re workin’ with. They’re cookin’ indeed with radiant heat in their musicianship on display, crystal clear in their conviction and passion, with chops & style for miles. Live? Good gravy! Who wouldn’t want to sit right there in the room with Dagger Down while they jammed out for an hour straight avant-garde and just let their most innovative & creative instincts take’em wherever the music goes – heck, I’d be tempted to walk from Canada to see it happen right in front of me if they can light it up as magnificently live as they do at the end of this cut.
I felt like the atmosphere & structure of “Angel Said To Me” really stood out brilliantly…an excellent example of how Dagger Down is able to heighten the moment from part to part and raise the stakes along the way. Keyboards add big-time to this tune as well – but truly, they’ve just got a really great tune with “Angel Said To Me” that is quite likely going to stand out for a great many listeners out there as it peers from behind its mysterious & dusty sound, to heading straight into the spotlight for a high dose of epic execution from every angle that songwriters, musicians, artists, bands, AND listeners will likely all appreciate for the same reasons consistently across the board. It’s almost got a similar eeriness to the vibe that’s very much akin to what you’d find in the early Aerosmith records…a sound/style of which even their most ardent fans still crave to this very day, so don’t go trying to convince me there’s not an audience for a song like this one. In terms of a journey from beginning to end inside of one experience on this album…and not including the final track, which we’ll definitely be discussing in detail, believe that – but as far as the rest of this lineup is concerned, you can bank on “Angel Said To Me” taking you on the biggest adventure in terms of its range of sound. You’ll start out small with them, and by the end, you’ll be more than impressed with how far you can travel from one extreme to the other with Dagger Down on “Angel Said To Me” – they’ve got some of their most compelling ideas in this one.
On the softer side of their sound, “Twilight Time” seemed to grab me the most…I ended up with quite the affinity for this more tenderized tune. There are similar moments of more delicate Dagger Down presented along the journey throughout this record, but I really ended up feeling attached to “Twilight Time” personally…this is where they really seemed to get the best out of themselves without the help of their sweet-sweet low-end heaviness leading the charge. Because of its gentle demeanor, sure, chances are, it’s not gonna be the number one cut that people out there are ranting & raving about…or maybe not at first…but perhaps they should be – “Twilight Time” is really an example of a song that’s flawlessly written & extremely well executed with all the right attention to detail in all the right places you wanna find it. Love the way they’ve worked in the piano into this song as well, it provides the perfect dose of sincerity in the melody that gives Dagger Down all the right cues for how to get the most out of the potential on “Twilight Time” – and in a sense, this also provides us all with what essentially becomes the first of TWO conclusions this new album will draw to. That’s right – I said TWO – as in, buckle up friends – there’s still a whole other way you can consider this album to be finished, or more accurately, not possible to be considered complete without. “Twilight Time” finishes the initial helping of thirteen tracks off with a nice, warm, shimmering style & comforting sound…but stick around folks, because you NEED to hear what Dagger Down has created just around the corner in “Jade (Where Are We Now).”
“14.” Ohhhhh. Okay. NOW I see how it’s gonna be Dagger Down – you wanna kick it old-school do ya? The ol’ silent-treatment…the space between…that spot where you THINK for a short second that you’ve finished your journey, only to find that you’re actually far from it…for after thirty-seconds alone with your thoughts, you’ll find what’s pretty much undeniably the most ambitious & adventurous track you’ll find anywhere in the Dagger Down catalog with “Jade (Where Are We Now)” at the very end. This behemoth is over TWELVE MINUTES LONG…or what’s basically just twelve more minutes shy of the length of an entire ten song Weezer album if you want a tool for measurement – and they’ve really found…something I’d be taking a very, very close look at here. First & foremost, on a melodic level alone, you’ll find this is THE highlight cut on the entire album for the lead-vocals of Dagger Down – Lawrence Fothe is right on the money here, and you couldn’t ask for an ounce more than what you’ll get out of him. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s the space, the pacing, the extra time he’s taken, just knowing the material or whatnot…but the difference is actually quite noticeable – in my opinion, I think it’s the best song I’ve heard him sing, or at the very least right up there in the top three. You factor in the spoken-word storyline and its poetic details, the wildness of the instrumentation that ties it all together on this fantasy-driven progressive & experimental tune…and I’m tellin’ ya folks – I’d happily sit & listen to an entire album’s worth of this kind of creativity that they display here at the very end of Dagger Down III. It really is the type of dramatic difference that’ll have you wondering about their future to follow…and somewhat begging the question that if this extraordinarily imaginative tune is what they could be doing all the time…well…shouldn’t it be? Look…I’ll be the last person to suggest any song out there that’s over twelve-minutes in length is gonna be EVERYONE’s jam…but man I sure can wish it WAS, can’t I? “Jade (Where Are We Now)” has EVERYTHING – it IS everything! It’s so relentlessly creative, and so brilliantly executed from the spoken-word storyline to the way it’s sung…I mean, this is award-worthy stuff on display from Dagger Down at the end of this third album, and guaranteed to give ya something different from the band you’ve yet to experience from them ever before so far. I love the way this album ends…to me, “Jade (Where Are We Now)” might be somewhat of a bonus inclusion of sorts in how different it truly is from the majority of the record, but it is absolutely 100% essential listening if you’re to ask these two ears of mine. I’m positive a track like this takes a whole ton of time & effort & talent & creativity to make on behalf of all involved – but if you’re genuinely hearing what I’m hearing…there’s something really special about this last cut that none of the others have from its start to finish…something well worth being excited about, and a potential nod to where they might take their music to follow. Don’t get me wrong, as I told you all from the get-go here, Dagger Down is always going to have that gear where they just wanna tune-in, turn-up, and rock out – and that might very well remain a staple of their signature sound over the years to come too – but don’t be surprised if they really start digging into the art & craft to continue challenging themselves as a band, and finding their way into immaculate discoveries within their own creativity that bring out a whole new dimension of what they’re capable of, just like we hear in “Jade (Where Are You Now)” in this album’s conclusion.
Dagger Down III comes out officially on February 12th next week – and they’ve made more than a case or two here for you to be circling that date on your calendars. Stay vigilant! Be ready! Keep up on the details by visiting their official website at: https://www.daggerdown.com
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