By Jonny Bones
VANCOUVER – Celtic-punk, cluster-folk, polka-revivalist, all are terms used to describe Vancouver based cider punks, the Dreadnoughts. While this amalgamation of nouns can be considered an accurate interpretation regarding the five-piece ensemble at one time or another, none of them quite capture the essence and pure, unbridled energy the Dreadnoughts represent. From the live off the floor fury of the first record, Legends Never Die, to the cider soaked crowds and sweat drenched live shows, the tale of the Dreadnoughts has grown among the underground scene. Cementing themselves in folk punk history with the release of 2010’s Polka’s Not Dead, a beautiful album that bridged the gap between punk, folk, and the eternal entity known as polka, the band has become legends in their own right.
After a six-year hiatus, the Dreadnoughts have unleashed their newest effort, Foreign Skies, a 47-minute masterpiece that delves into the glory and the horror of a world at war. “The album centres around World War One,” lead singer/guitarist Nicholas Smyth explains. “Which is not only the most dramatic, inspiring and bloody awful period in Western history, but which is also ‘celebrating’ its centennial.” The importance of history and heritage are subjects that Smyth has always held a great interest in and have been sources of musical inspiration since the inception of the band. “The reason that period is so fascinating,” Smyth recalls, “is that it begins with optimism, confidence, and bravado and ends in tragedy, horror, and depression.” The album reflects these difficult transitions and is broken into three distinct sections, covering the array of emotions that the war represented.
The title track “Foreign Skies” speaks to the naive notion early on that victory was imminent, war would be brief and all soldiers would surely return home soon. Moving forward with songs such as “Jericho,” along with “Black and White,” the tone drastically shifts to the chaos of battle, sonically capturing the bloodshed seen upon the war-torn landscapes of Europe. The album concludes with “Back Home In Bristol.” Easily the darkest tale on the album, it tells the story of Jim Wilson, a soldier imprisoned and shot by his own brothers in arms for acts of cowardice and disobedience toward a superior, when in truth he was only a young kid, desperately trying to survive in a hell that he had no part in creating.
While Foreign Skies will at first sound familiar to old fans, with its sea shanty sing-a-longs, blisteringly fast punk rock anthems and pulsating polkas, the new album digs much deeper and uncovers the uncomfortable truths about our past, much of which is still disturbingly relevant today. The Dreadnoughts have crafted something beyond an enjoyable punk album with this outing. Amidst the stage dives and cider swilling crowds, they have somehow managed to rise above the trappings of their genre, creating something truly unique, unapologetically honest and undeniably their own.
The Dreadnoughts play the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver) on November 24.Rickshaw Theatre, the dreadnoughts