The last decade has brought us a rise in interesting progressive metal and rock with its roots not in the 1970s, but instead in extreme metal, alternative rock, and even punk. The musicians from this era still love classic progressive rock, but they are not producing music based only on that one foot. Instead, modern prog is a diverse, entertaining movement which has given us Haken and Leprous.
A band that gives signs of “should-be-added” to that list is Dropshard, and of that “Silk” is proof in kind. “Anywhere But Home,” which was released in 2011, was the band’s debut and it bore a striking resemblance to the work of Riverside, Anathema and/or Porcupine Tree. Despite this undeniable likeness, the record was chock full of fat grooves, great writing, beautiful vocal performances from singer Enrico Scanu and great performances from all the musicians.
Dropshard’s sophomore offering “Silk” is a clear improvement. The record is a menagerie of the best things about “Anywhere But Home,” plus new dimensions in terms of performance and writing. Like so many of the best bands, what makes Dropshard work is the combination of an original sound – in this case, keyboards driven music and airy riffing – with effective use of dynamic songwriting that plays on all of the band’s strengths. Dropshard does both ‘heavy, syncopated and groovy’ and ‘delicate and melancholy’ with extreme ease. Songs move smoothly between these two modes, often hooking on Enrico Scanu’s vocal performances to make the transitions work. Top this off with an instinctive understanding for melody, which is displayed in soaring choruses that feel like the synthesis of the heavy and melodic, and you have a recipe for excellence.
“Silk” is a more progressive record than its predecessor. Moments like the bridge in “Insight” and the verse in “Tied Together” show off a side of the band that works extremely well – syncopated rhythms, driving melodies and intuitive groove. Bursts of genius and variation are often perfectly differentiated from a bed of tom driven groove, juxtaposed with epic choruses – what comes as one of the Dropshard’s greatest strengths.
And while I love the truly heavy moments this record offers, I cannot deny that a huge part of the appeal of Dropshard is, here quite a lot mentoned, Enrico Scanu’s performance. He particularly shines when the band moves into the lighter material. For me, this is best exemplified by “Memento,” which may be the track that I come back to the most these days. Wandering firmly into Anathema territory, Scanu’s performance is heart-wrenching and the composition is the perfect music for shortening Autumn days. Scanu’s use of harmonies – a style already heard on “Anywhere But Home” – continues to be something that is very effective. These moments of delicate harmonies litter the album on so many occasions, and they add tiny moments of piercing perfection that push cerebral music to the emotional plane – and from great to excellent.
It is finally the fact that “Silk” is so artfully crafted and emotionally evocative that pushes it to the next level despite the audial limitations. As the record slopes towards its conclusion, I am struck over and over by the mastery of the melody and feel that Dropshard has. These moments of piercing beauty combined with the epic writing, the powerful performances and the next level of heaviness is sprinkled across the record makes “Silk” special.