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American Draft
Volumes II:III

Rating: 9/10 ?

August 26, 2005
The immortal supreme metal gods are all-powerful. They have bestowed upon me an opus of exalted measures in the form of the grandiose and apotheosized gem that is known as American Draft.

Four men, sixteen years of playing together, and one double album entitled Volumes II:III is all it took to put a permanent grin on my face. After a long and tumultuous period of what the mainstream considers "nü-metal", the occasional throwback band such as The Darkness, and even David Grohl's attempt at early cult metal debacle Probot, a band has finally taken the reigns of true guitar monsters giving metal heads a reason to bob their heads again.

When it comes to my adoration of heavy metal, I do not keep those frenzied feelings in a closet. Heavy guitar chunks have held a special place in my finger tapping phalanges ever since learning to play Led Zeppelin and Metallica riffs on my pawn shop battle axe as a fifteen year old. I spent hours trying to recreate lengthy, exasperated solos and complex, lawless riffs only to conclude that pentatonic scales should be left to the professionals. Still, this did not stop me leaving of heaviness on unsuspecting friends and family members, after starting metal band after metal band. From White Cross to Slain Acid, each rock endeavor fell short of greatness and I gave up, succumbing to the realization that I would not be a rock star. But the fine young lads in American Draft are just that - a new breed of traditional metal heroes easily emerging as the dominating force in their mostly instrumental rock kingdom.

It would be easy to compare American Draft to the likes of The Fucking Champs, simply because of their effortless style of creating a classic metal sound, but it's a bit unfair considering the degree of American Draft's greatness and the fact that metal isn't their only forte. It would be like comparing margarine to I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, which just isn't right. The sounds that permeate though both Volumes II and III would make most guitar heroes blush with envy; American Draft shows no mercy with their onslaught of Iron Maiden laced guitar work over these twenty-three songs.

The Maiden touch is felt throughout the double album, but specific highlights begin with the opener, "Lena Lorkwood," and continue through "Rock Reprise," which was lifted straight from the Randy Rhoads school of rock. American Draft also tinker with early thrash sounds that DRI made us love to hate in the early 80s, ripping things up on "Knuerr Knuppers" - but I can't seem to get past the relentless teeth gnashing thud they so fearlessly create on the appropriately-titled "Robbie Knievel Fox Action Special".

In this track alone, American Draft are able to comprise so much flamboyant guitar work that whenever I hear it exasperated beads of sweat pour from my fragile frame in awe of the thick sludge that roars from the rhythm guitar as the din unifies to form a musical battalion. The band is prepared for symphonic war, able to use excessive force when on the enemy lines of silence and my feeble brain. What seems to be a xylophone devours the song's breakdown and then overlaps the guitars in a sequenced melodrama. I am alarmed every time, snapping to the notion that this is entertainment as much as it is sincere metal madness.

Thankfully, when it comes to the flashy guitar competence American Draft so successfully employ, it's not all mayhem. "Ruben Kincaide" is a campy lounge song that swings and sways, as one of the few songs that actually has lyrics. It's the only one of its kind, sonically, but hardly the lone wanderer when it comes to novelty songs and playing it straight.

"Ten Long Years (No Nuclear Bomb)" sounds like Tortoise took over the instruments to show American Draft how to slow it down in a sharp, jazzy, freestyle number, effectively adding a skewed drum solo half way through its avant-garde sounding guitar outline. Then there is "Anvil of Crom," which would be American Draft's theme song if they should elect to have one. It's composition is what "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" was to the Ramones, with a haunting synth line complementing the tribal pattern of the drums in a supernatural and magical disposition. The track gets more mysterious as twin guitars fearfully coincide with heavy, crashing symbols, and concludes in the same din in which it began. The song is an enigma that fits the mold and the mystery that is American Draft.

The most interesting track out of both volumes is not a heavy metal creation brought forth by the righteousness of rock, but rather a number inspired by the quirkiness of Ween and lengthy indie rock jams of Built to Spill; "Get Near It" seems, at first, familiar in the way the drums enter, sliding under the clean picked guitar chords that themselves ride over a simple bass line, and the occasional sound of the second guitar plucking notes intermittently. As the song progresses, it seems as if American Draft are simply making things up as they go along, and they probably are. After several minutes of the jam nearly falling apart, the song goes quiet before building up again in another improvisational form. As more minutes pass, the tempo builds, the guitars become louder and the song peaks after six minutes and twenty-five seconds; finally, the crunch of guitars becomes too much, their weight evening things out for the last quarter of the song. Even in that balance, however, "Get Near It" still maintains the noisy blast from which it took off, thrusting like a space shuttle escaping the chaos of Earth to orbit until order is restored. Finally, after seven and a half minutes of pure unadulterated indie rock masterwork, order returns.

I could write pages on why American Draft's Volumes II:III is a brilliant, rock opera-like production filled with dazzling guitar work and lustrous compositions, filling the emptiness so many metal bands have left me with over the past fifteen years - but it is their capricious playful side, found in both volumes, that makes their record so profound, adding to the curious marvel of the entire seventy-two minutes worth of complete discord. American Draft's power of submission can cripple if one were willing, or able for that matter, to seek the righteousness and fulfillment offered in a debut double album that is true red-blooded American metal mania. Anywhere, anytime, with anyone: That is the code of the Draft.

Reviewed by Mark Taylor
A senior LAS staff writer, Mark Taylor is a 29 year old father of a 5 year old son and husband to a wife of 6 years, living the simple life in a small suburb of Charlotte, NC.

See other reviews by Mark Taylor



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