Danny End The Dictators – The Death Of Sovereignty – Album Review
Lemme tell ya folks…as the guy that listens to everything, I’m always perplexed by how other people would make their way through an album that has me struggling, or challenges my ears more than most. I get a lot of people asking about whether or not there’s any pressure in reviewing records like that…and the answer is no…there’s never any pressure on my side of the screen – all I can do is be honest about what it is I hear & relay that information as best I can. You’d wonder why my peers are unable to do the same really…but I don’t worry about that either – I leave it to the artists/bands out there to judge who it is they think is being real with them, and who’s just here to collect a check and say the really nice things.
Plus…there’s also the occasional band & artist out there in this scene we share that WANTS to make ya more uncomfortable than others do…I can’t even imagine what they’d think of the typical all-positive reviews that most ‘reviewers’ end up posting. Shout-outs to those unafraid to post up their criticism & courageous enough to reveal that not every review we’re ever gonna get is truly gonna be the greatest.
Anyhow – YES…The Death Of Sovereignty ain’t gonna be the easiest record to listen to that you’re going to find in 2022 – and that’s OK. I don’t think Danny End The Dictators necessarily makes their music for everyone anyway…they know who their target audience would be, and if you dig it, right on – I’m sure there’s always room to squeeze in another on their bandwagon. If you don’t dig it, move on will ya? This world’s plenty big & there’s a whole lot of music out there…go find something easier for ya to like.
Regardless of what you or I personally think of the results – effort is something we can all universally hear – and the moment you push play on The Death Of Sovereignty and “Crawling” kicks into gear, you can hear that there’s musicianship, skill, and a signature sound of their own working in Danny End The Dictators’ favor. Specifically…I mean…good LORD – the guitars in this band are genuinely something else, and potentially the main asset when it comes to what might draw folks into listening. What makes these tracks tougher to examine in terms of what might give the average everyday listener a gateway in, is the reality that most of the hooks you’ll find are completely anti-typical. Obviously there’s risk in that – it can work for & against you, going that route – you’ll stand out to some for all the right reasons, and you’ll put others off in the process because it’s more than they can absorb, handle, or easily digest. It’s the reason you gotta spin any record several times, just to make sure you’re not in some kind of mood that would hinder your acceptance…you wanna be as objective as possible in listening to anyone’s album, to see if you can feel what they’re feelin’ when they made it – and what hooked THEM into any given song along the way. In my opinion, the main hook you’re gonna find in “Crawling” is actually the whistling…as to whether or not that’s gonna be quite enough to keep people coming back, or serve Danny End The Dictators well enough as a first impression for those that don’t know them yet, could be a whole other question entirely. There’s skill in the instrumentation though, and I can get behind that – I think there’s room for the band to evolve, but hey, they’ve only been putting out music for less than a year as far as I can tell from what I see online…it’s only natural there’d be plenty of room for evolution.
“One In A Million” could possibly be a gateway in for many…I’m not necessarily saying it’d be something for everyone, but there’s more accessibility here in the main meat of the song for the average everyday set of ears to wrap their heads around. I’ll admit, I went back & forth plenty about this track in trying to figure out what the heck I was gonna say about it…it’s got the strangest energy, and ends up playing out like a mid-tempo tune tends to – confusing. I had moments where I’d listen and feel like I wanted to hear more energy and spark to it…others where I recognized that adding any more of that could potentially sour the melody, or maybe taint the off-Punk attitude that a song like this is actually built on. I never really came to a conclusion I felt like I could stand behind 100% – I think there’s definitely a more accessible melody coming from the microphone this time around than you’ll find in the opening tune, but at the same time, readily acknowledge such anti-typical hooks tend to polarize the listeners overall.
For example, I felt like even though it’s a slower jam, “Invisible Man” was played with more obvious heart & passion than you’d find in the second tune. Not saying that’s necessarily the case – I’m just sayin’ that’s the way most of us would likely hear it on our side of the speakers…and that might be something that Danny End The Dictators wants to consider. Maybe they’ll just tell me to take a proverbial hike & write off everything I’m saying too – criticism from one dude on the internet only goes so far, and it’s always better to go by whatever the general consensus will tell ya anyhow, if you choose to take any advice or feedback for what’s trying to be communicated at all anyway. I still don’t think “Invisible Man” has quite enough to get the people out there ranting & raving about what Danny End The Dictators are creating, but I do think it’s a quality tune when it comes right down to it. It’s a slower jam, but it’s still sitting right there in that oh-so-dangerous mid-tempo…and Danny End The Dictators are just gonna have to accept that that’s a pace that generally challenges just about every set of ears listening, no matter who ya are or what genre you’re in. For me – I like moments like we hear in the highlights, just past the five-minute mark before this wraps up…you hear that slight spark of energy bring the song to life, if only for a second or two before it’s all over. I’ll take what I can get, every time. I also like the opening instrumentation and the way the guitars, bass, and drums bring us into this song over the course of that first fifty seconds or so too…it’s not music without merit, it’s just challenging convention & what we typically hear coming out of our speakers is all – I’m not personally afraid of that. There’s kind of an Interpol-esque thing goin’ on with the vocals here too, which also kinda works for me.
“River Of Rife” is…a lot. I think there’s some work to be done in terms of understanding what the main assets of this band really are – to me, it’s much more in the instrumentation as opposed to being vocally driven. So…in terms of that kind of observation, assuming they’d agree somewhat or even a little, it becomes more about finding that balance to bring out what the main assets really are – “refining,” as they say. When it comes to “River Of Rife,” the vocals come in to practically dominate the rest, not only in the mix itself, but in the pattern of the melody, which sends a string of syllables over top of everything else. Do I have any idea what I’m talking about? You tell me. You get to the 1:40 mark and tell me that next ten seconds isn’t one of the most significant highlights in this track as a result of the clarity and being able to concentrate more solely on the music itself. I like that there’s a semi-psychedelic vibe goin’ on with “River Of Rife” and think it has some potential in that regard…I just feel like the music ends up having to shrink as a result of the vocals being so up front as they are right now, and that the inverse method would bring out the real meat on the bone that Danny End The Dictators have workin’ for’em. As it stands, they’re kind of right on the fringe of the Alt/Grunge weirdness you’d find in something like Mudhoney in this particular backwoods strangeness…and if there’s a band out there more niche than those guys are, I couldn’t tell ya who it would be. Might work for me…Mudhoney made themselves a fully fruitful career eventually after a whole lotta turmoil & trying…so you never know – this could be something that Danny End The Dictators could build around and follow the blueprint of towards success.
A lot of the treble-up tones, crunch, and skills they flash would definitely have ya believing they grew up listening to stuff like Van Halen and the Kinks…and then decidedly to kind of form their music as the antithesis to all that. “I Key” has a lot of great moments in the instrumentation…some stuff that I still end up wondering how it doesn’t quite get more of a share of the spotlight that it likely deserves, buried a bit into the mix overall as opposed to standing out like it should. Vocally…here’s my thing…if you’re gonna have’em…if they’re deemed to be necessary – go attack that motherfuckin’ microphone with some real PURPOSE y’all. I like what I start hearing around the 3:20 mark…there’s a bit of spark & life thrashing from the microphone around there…and up until that point, on this song, on the record – I suppose I’ve kind of been waiting for that to come to the surface. We NEED that as listeners, otherwise the effect can be draining and droning if you’re not too careful…and Danny End The Dictators is riding one seriously fine line in terms of what the people out there are gonna accept in that regard. I felt like “I Key,” up to the 1:20-ish mark, is a solid example of a song that they can play, as opposed to one that really has that inspired spark & feeling like they WANT to play it – know what I mean? It makes a huge difference in terms of how we receive things on our end…we kinda want to know that the people making the music we’re listening to it are invested and interest too, right? It’s so much harder to tell that for a certainty with Danny End The Dictators until they finally spring to life towards the end of this cut. Again…we talk about this a lot on these pages of ours…sometimes it really comes down to standing back from the material & being as ruthlessly objective as possible in terms of assessing what’s working.
Speaking OF – here we ARE, and here we go – we’ve found the easiest example of accessibility to pinpoint so far on The Death Of Sovereignty – “The Mask” instantly displays a sound you know most people listening will be able to connect with. I’m still gonna advise caution to the band & remind’em to make sure to dial in on what the main features are if they want the people out there listening…as in, if you’re all about the vocals, keep’em right up there in the mix and dominating what we hear with the endless strings of words as they are…or, if they’re about more than that, to open up these songs a bit more and allow some of that instrumentation to shine on through. I’m not suggesting the vocals don’t work – they’re like anyone else’s in that respect, some people will love’em, others won’t – that’s life, that’s music, that’s the way things work and it is what it is – all I’m advocating for is Danny End The Dictators really dialing in on what’s helping them reach the people out there. A bit of space can go a long way sometimes – especially when the band is sounding as good as they do on “The Mask” overall – this is one of those moments where you wanna pounce on these guys and be like, DO THAT…DO THAT MORE…because this is what works. Vocally, I actually really like the hazy way this starts out and the bizarre uniqueness in the sound we find…it’s moments like around the ninety second mark that make us realize we still want to have that space available to really get our chance to absorb what the band is doing together as a whole…but yeah…I don’t wanna complain too much – this is the closest I’ve found towards the beginning of the set-list on The Death Of Sovereignty that is what you’d consider universal.
For a moment or two even, it seems like everything is about to snap into place – “Recidivism” comes out with fairly accessible sound right afterwards, giving ya another solid dose of psychedelically-tinged melody that works really well. While there’s no doubt that the majority of the songs on this record go in a less melodic direction, the mid-section of this album proves that when they’re focused on melody as the main aspect of their music, it can really pay off for them. I’d argue that the most accessible Danny End The Dictators get on this record overall is found right here in the middle with “The Mask” and “Recidivism” being featured back-to-back (at least, depending where you’re listening from as the lineup & order varies between sites). Given that these cuts are the exception as opposed to the rule, they’re gonna have to have some intense discussions about what kind of band they wanna be and what’s really working for them…but if you’re asking this guy over here on this side of the screen, and it appears that someone out there has – I’d readily tell ya that these two tracks illuminate the pathway forward for them. I have no problem whatsoever telling ya that I really enjoyed both “The Mask” and “Recidivism” – they kind of remind me of the Alt/Psych melodies of something like Dandelion from back in the Grunge era…tunes like these sound like they’re melting hot in the sun, and I really dig that, 100%. Plus, that’s a highlight guitar solo to be found on this album as you head toward the three-minute mark.
I think what’s more troubling is that something like “Lying Hole” reveals the sound the band is looking to create more-so than the two tracks that come before it…and it’s a much tougher sell to the masses. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think a band like Danny End The Dictators gives a single flying fuck about what the masses are or aren’t gonna like…I don’t think that’s why they do what they do or make the music they make – but regardless, the crossroads intersect whether we like it or not, and at some point along the way, all that’s gotta be acknowledged. Then it’s up to them if they wanna push the stone up the hill, or if they wanna find some kind of middle ground like they did with “The Mask” & “Recidivism” that still allows them the ability to make the music they wanna create without compromising too much. “Lying Hole” has a gothic tinge to it that I felt worked pretty well…kind of like how The Animals always had that haunting element to their music when you listened to it, and even a bit of a Blues influence in the mix underlying it all as well. I do think that “Lying Hole” has a bit more to offer ya than the first half of this set list tends to reveal, and really does become one of the most effective & memorable cuts to be found on this record overall…I’m definitely not opposed to this track, and felt like there’s real meat on the bone with the subtle intensity you’ll find in this cut. There’s more space involved here…just sayin’ – you can hear how it makes the music bolder, and even though it’s a mid-tempo tune again, it hits harder as a result…each moment along the way has more opportunity to make a lasting impact because of it.
The second-shortest track on the album by quite some time, “Oh My Gun” also has the stomp/storm to it that’s gonna connect with the people out there. I still feel that the vocals are coming out a bit dominant overall – but in this particular instance, that move seems to fit right and suit the song when the singing is involved. Just a fraction over 2:30, “Oh My Gun” might also give Danny End The Dictators some clues as to how move forward from here. There’s a whole lot to their sound that makes it a whole lot for the people out there to absorb as they listen – and going shorter with their tunes, might not exactly be a bad thing when it comes to the final results. Pretty deadly little ditty when it comes right down to it – writing a love song to your gun these days is definitely going to raise some eyebrows and get some attention, probably good and bad. If the world can accept a cut like Nirvana’s “In Bloom” as a mainstream hit years ago, considering nothing’s changed except the magnification of the issue in our media diet, there should be nothing really stopping a concept like this from still having a chance in catching on. There’s hooks here that work…if anything, I felt like “Oh My Gun” might actually be TOO short – and it’s kinda nice to feel that way about a Danny End The Dictators tune when everything else tends to feel like it’s stretched right out to the maximum distance of what any of us can handle. All-in-all though, I’d be pretty stoked about “Oh My Gun” if I was in the band…this feels like it came out right.
“Danny Donuts” is…close. I feel like we’re nearly heading towards what makes “The Mask” & “Recidivism” work as well as they do, but not quite up to par with those cuts by a fraction or two as it stands right now. Potential-wise, I think with a bit of tightening up & focus, “Danny Donuts” could go on to rival the record’s most accessible moments. Vocally, there’s a bit of dissonance & jarring tones that could be easily resolved in the melody in the verses…which is weird…unless someone’s out there with a sharp stick poking Danny End The Dictators in the ass telling them to get that next record out yesterday, they can hear the same things we can…so take your time homies. Moments like this are among the most confusing to me for sure – they’ve got the complete potential and ability to make things easier on themselves and the listeners out there…if that’s what they WANT to do – and there’s something specific in a song like “Danny Donuts” that basically tells you that’s not at all the priority. Like I was tellin’ ya at the start of all this…some bands/artists have no problem at all makin’ it awkward for us…”Danny Donuts” is a perfect example of that theory in action, giving us a moment where they could have refined this melody to the nth degree and made it palatable from start to finish, instead of scattered moments of accessibility & bizarre charm that we find along the way instead. Still, even in considering all that stuff, I’m inclined to side with this track as one of the album’s better tunes…not everything needs to be so complex all the time – “Danny Donuts” is an example of how the best methods can be the simplest.
The Death Of Sovereignty wraps up with “True Wealth” to finish it off, as Danny End The Dictators heads back towards a longer cut for the finale. Oddly enough, I still think The Animals is one of the best comparisons you can make to the vibe that comes along with listening to this band…there’s a lot of intentionally haunting melody at work at different points along the way – and if you fuse that with the inherent freak-scene weirdness you’d get in something Alt/Psych like Mudhoney or Dandelion…really, that’s kind of what you can expect to find here, if you can conceive what something like that would sound like. Back to the ol’ mid-tempo…there’s parts of “True Wealth” that feel like you want them to hit that switch and light it up…to really push things to that next-level, as opposed to maintaining such a stoic pace & demeanor the entire time…but that’s kind of what Danny End The Dictators seem to do. Overall, I like the fact that there’s more space in the mix between the vocals and music, and recognize that we can’t always get everything we want…sometimes we gotta compromise…so I’ll take a small victory here in that regard, and be happy with what I’ve got. That being said – listening to this band spring to life for FIFTEEN SECONDS or less right before it’s all over is kind of like one last kick in the ass – because I think THAT is the spark we’re all looking for in listening to this band, and they’re fully capable of it. For whatever reason, Danny End The Dictators are teasing out their chops and withholding a bit of what could potentially make them greater than they currently are…time will tell if they choose to do something about that, or if what we get here on The Death Of Sovereignty is exactly what they wanted.
Find out more about Danny End The Dictators at their official pages below!
Find out what we do at sleepingbagstudios, and be the next to be featured on our pages by clicking here!