DROPSHARD — Anywhere But Home (review)

DROPSHARD — Anywhere But Home album cover Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
A suite of powerful symphonic musicianship and prog metal.

I have had this album "Anywhere But Home" in my possession for a long time after the artists kindly sent it to me, and it somehow ended up on the bottom of a huge pile of prog, so apologies for taking so long to review it! My first impression is that it was actually heavier than I anticipated. The album cover almost looked a bit folk prog, an impressionist painting depicting a couple of kids dancing away from each other, and I was in more of a mood for a heavier style. So I was delighted that at least there were some great metal riffs to lock onto and a very distinct sound like Riverside or Porcupine Tree. The first thing that grabbed me was the very accomplished guitar work of Sebastiano Benatti that dominates throughout. The lead vocals of Enrico Scanu are crystal clean and very easy on the ears, reaching high octaves and maintaining powerful strong melodies. He also plays some flute and acoustic guitar. On bass is Alex Stucchi, backed up by well-executed percussion by Tommaso Mangione. The Dream Theater sound alike sections are mostly due to massive keyboard runs by Tommaso Selleri. For a young band the sound is quite mature overall and the album is a solid debut for Dropshard.

The music is dynamic, a suite of songs that run together with a concept, presented in huge blasts of metal juxtaposed with ambient swathes of symphonic keyboards. There is certainly a heavy texture with chugging distorted guitars but the everpresent keyboards underneath are reminiscent of Riverside's style, along with the pristine vocals. There are no epics to speak of, the longest song being the innovative 8:17 minute Changing Colours, and most of the songs are driven by melody or mood changes rather than complex or diverse time sig changes. Lead breaks are always something to look forward to and this album is no exception, with some exceptional shredding from Benatti.

One of the best tracks is undoubtedly the aforementioned 8 minute song, that builds in intensity from ambience to downright fierce axe work; the finale especially crunches and gains tempo to one of the heavier moments on the album. There is also a terrific heavy interchange of guitar riffing in A Cold Morning, a track that is well worth checking out to taste what the band is capable of cranking out. The low dense guitar sound is akin to Opeth or Dream Theater, a darker sound but always kept in balance with the crystalline uplifting vocals. A New Beginning is another outstanding track with melodic metal, and an infectious riff that locks into your skull. The running time for the album is only 34 minutes although the 4 and a half minute bonus track Freedom Supermarket enhances the album, ending it with some very heavy shades of metal. This track has a powerful keyboard motif augmented by lashings of intense metal riffing. The track also features some high falsetto work from Scanu. Overall the debut for Dropshard is a promising start to another new prog metal band, offering nothing that might be considered new as such, but nevertheless delivering a rock-solid album of symphonic nuances and advanced metal phrases. 3 and a half stars easily and room for improvement with a follow up album that the metal and prog community should look forward to.
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