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The Dagger

Century Media (2014)
Rating: 7/10

Formed in 2009, Stockholm-based retro metal / rock band The Dagger feature death metal musicians David Blomqvist (guitar; ex-Carnage, ex-Dismember, ex-Entombed), Fred Estby (drums; Necronaut, ex-Carnage, ex-Dismember) and Tobias Cristiansson (bass; Grave, ex-Dismember), alongside newest recruit Jani Kataja (vocals; Mangrove, Sideburn)

With duelling guitars, simmering melodies, autumnal drama and riveting New Wave Of British Heavy Metal worship, the debut full-length offering from the Swedish combo proves to be a melting pot of metal.

Early Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Deep Purple and UFO all spring to mind as The Dagger decide to transport us back to the late 70s and early 80s with their authentic sounding gallop. Whereas a number of bands seem so intent on revival that they have become hindered, The Dagger have a raw knowingness about their sound, and it’s as if this opus was recorded back in that pivotal time. In fact, these guys have even gone as far to name a song ‘1978’!

But hey, in spite of the tongue in cheek nature, there is a real feeling that The Dagger understand about the origins of metal with the Ritchie Blackmore (ex-Deep Purple / ex-Rainbow) worship on the guitar at times. It’s straight-laced rock ’n’ roll from beginning to end though, and features classic harmonies and a stark, raving simplicity. The only gimmick is the band’s understanding of what makes metal great, so you can expect plenty of soul, especially in the vocals of Kataja.

Sweden has produced some mighty fine bands over the years and with Ghost B.C. taking the occult trip to new levels of accessible spookiness, it seems only right that the country should now show us how to deliver real metal to the masses. There is of course a fine line that exists at the moment with metal. Some acts who are part of this revival trip seem to labour; their sound attempts to exist as a stripped back formula, but in fact it comes across as dull and tiresome. The Dagger have got this just about right, but I’m sure that you’ll still be left leafing through those old Rainbow, Priest et al albums, because in spite of its positives, this debut platter is one that could be accused of lacking fire and bite of the originals it so openly worships.

Although the grooves are fluent and blues-laced, I’m left aching for just a flicker of fire or a lean toward the darker side. This only really comes via the cool ‘Ballad Of An Old Man’, and the lead single ‘Ahead Of You All’. First and foremost, you’ll hear such a strong Judas Priest influence. It’s as if – just like Ghost B.C. – that The Dagger have been “chosen” in a manufactured sort of way to spread this revivalist message to all, but at times it comes a little too close to the mark in its worship, with tracks such as ‘Electric Dawn’ showing more than just a hint of early Iron Maiden.

While I don’t expect any staggeringly original bands to emerge within the metal genre, I am a touch concerned about the amount of mimicry being exhibited by bands as well as labels in their intent to recreate the past. Having said that, when it does work – as in the case of most of this opus – it makes for a sort of easy listening experience where the driving guitars tend to caress the mind rather than scorch it, and it makes for a rather uplifting if somewhat generic experience in New Wave Of British Heavy Metal-by-numbers rock. The Dagger are proof that metal is at its best when kept simple, but then again, it could also be argued that the metal genre is at the moment bereft of ideas, and that like so many Hollywood films, there is a tendency to rehash and remake to the point of utmost failure.

Retro rock is the “in thing” at the moment, but it’s highly unlikely these sort of bands will be revered in the same way as the masters. It could be argued as to what’s the exact point, but if we can take it at face value, then The Dagger are currently filling a hole for some.

Neil Arnold

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