Review: Darwin & The Dinosaur – A Thousand Ships

You know how all of the good rock bands say that they’re fuelled by a near-lethal concoction of sex, drugs, and booze, yeah? Well, no, actually, because today we’ve got a ‘delightfully British’ helping for you all in the form of Darwin and the Dinosaur (D&tD), a band who keep their energy levels topped up with a not-so-dangerous mix of pot noodles, tea, and biscuits. What could be more British than tea, biscuits, and rock’n’roll eh? I like them already.

These guys sound like some sort of nerdy dream, you say? Well you haven’t heard anything yet. Calling Norwich home (a city with a castle and two cathedrals … they seem pretty proud about that), the band promises energetic shows filled to the brim with ‘dad-jokes’. D&tD’s drummer, Joe, runs the N.L.A – Norfolk L.A.R.P (Live Action Role Playing) Association, while the guitarist and backing vocalist, Steve, has apparently appeared as a supporting actor in every single Harry Potter film.

Nerd heaven.

Oh, that isn’t enough for you? Well I should probably let you know about their debut album A Thousand Ships which is being released in March (and in case you’re not excited yet, they have a freakin’ narwhal on the album sleeve! You know the one, the unicorns of the sea, with the most impressive but pointless horns in the animal kingdom). With a range of influences from Thrice to Fleetwood Mac, the four-piece Norwich outfit give a stellar account of themselves in this full-length debut (but we always knew they would – take a look at when we checked out their 2012 EP here).

Vocalist, Alan Hiom, provides far softer vocals than you usually get from similar bands. He also manages to keep a hold of some British pronunciation, showing you don’t have to bow to every Americanism in order to get a kick-ass sound. This blend of vocals is actually a pretty good metaphor for the entire album, which manages to capture a diverse range of styles and genres without ever sounding over-ambitious or confused. In fact the production is completely squeaky clean (without being over-edited).

One track which captures this variety of styles is ‘Hand in Hand’, with infectious verses, which are still stuck in my head, and a bouncing, ‘popping and punking’ chorus. The ability to seamlessly switch between the heavier metal-inspired instrumentals to a more pop-punk sound (as well as plenty in between) is a real highlight of the LP. The whole album conveys great technical skill, well crafted melodies, and a whole load of emotion.

A special mention has to go to ‘Riff Town Population – You’, which is quite simply a fantastic track. There is wonderful grit about it, sounding like a shout-out to great British rock acts of the past, and it sounds like a song pulled straight from the live scene. As one of the heavier songs to feature on the album, it also keeps a great melodic core, boasting D&tD’s dynamic range of talents and influences. I can certainly hear elements of Hundred Reasons and Reuben in there, while they create a sound of their own as well. Serious kudos for these guys.

A Thousand Ships has a great feel to it as an album. Some bands’ debut releases can smash into a cliff-face when they sacrifice the feel of a a whole album by just throwing together the best tracks they can record without a thought for how they go together; others get sucked into a vapid maelstrom when they spend too much time concentrating on the ‘overall sound’ and fail to deliver any stand out songs. D&tD manage to sail A Thousand Ships between these threats. It’s heavy, loud, and fast, but it also has a melodic chilled-out element in the middle.

What more can we say? You need to check these chaps out.

4 out of 5 high fives!

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