Album Review: Dave Ware – The Iron Republic
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
As little more than an old dinosaur and something of a Luddite, I have never been able to fully embrace all this social media stuff. These young folks with their Tick-Tocks and their In-Star-Grans, ushering in the Days of Noah, seem utterly alien to me. Not really one-hundred percent sure about the whole Interweb-thing, to be honest, but what I do know, is that it is a Godsent to creators who might not previously have been able to get their art out there. No longer are writers and musicians reliant on the whims of record executives or being spotted, now they can be masters of their own destiny (to an extent) by self-publishing.
Of the many thousand such home-schooled creators out there, I had the random fortune of sitting next to Dave Ware and his wife at Stonedead this year; following a chat that covered the equally random subjects of the weather, sound quality and Laurie Lee’s Red Sky at Sunrise, Dave just happened to mention he made a bit of music himself.
Bandcamp – still can’t say it without thinking of America Pie – shows Dave has eight releases under his belt and the latest, The Iron Republic, saw the light of day back in May. If there is a genre on show with this record it’s the overcrowded one of electronic-orchestral-progressive-synthwave-fuelled-by-middle-aged-rage; in reality, the freedom afforded to musicians like Dave, gives them the opportunity to indulge and explore ideas, free of the constrains of ‘business needs’.
Cast Me Out opens with a slow build, almost like a movie’s opening theme, before being joined by harsh slices of chugging guitar that, dare I say, lend the tune some Meshuggah-weight. Throughout the duration of the opener, there is the juxtaposition of the two, disparate sounds; buzzing guitars compete against smooth keys as prominent vocals are haunted by ethereal voices. It’s the Ying to the other’s Yang, giving the track an unsettling atmosphere and the notion that, like conjoined twins, a separation could see either aspect viable in itself.
Crystal Wheels begins with some playful keys which usher in a Zeppelin-esque acoustic guitar to compete against an incoming electric one. There quite the Country sound on show at times here as well as a soaring solo. Director’s Cut has a heavier guitar and carries the layered vocals on from the previous song, hinting at the influence of a band like Rush might have had on Dave’s composing. That said, it was on The Flood that I felt the impact of a certain Canadian Power Trio the most, though the interplay of the rhythms and the guitar lines.
Glass is the ballad of the record and uses a heavy bass as a heartbeat to support the sweeping orchestral strings in a simple, yet highly effective, emotionally wrought song.
I would also suggest Dave undersells himself as a lyricist, as his use of ideas, like the central theme of Director’s Cut being one of Fatalism, or the concept of The Flood being when the Silent Majority is silent no more, are wrapped in allegory. I could be a million miles off, but I’m reading a strong theological aspect to the image of the crystal wheels.
The second half of the album is the six-part The Iron Republic suite, based on writings of Richard Jameson Morgan serialisation of EW Barrington’s expedition to the South Pole in search of the titular Iron Republic. It’s the kind of subject matter than needs a huge canvass to set out and Dave affords the story the space to breath. Using Vangelis synths to introduce the tale, Heading South soon takes on the sort of Rush-isms needed for any Progressive musical venture, even down to some of the phrasing during Part 3: Wonders Anew.
At close to half-an-hour, The Iron Republic could have been a release in its own right and would provide ample evidence of a thoroughly competent musical talent. It is the antithesis of the Spotify problem, needing time and attention to ingest the nuances of both the story and the musical score.
To bring the album to a close is the huge sounding, Truth Rebranded, an obvious shot at the insanity of the Post Truth world in which we now seem to live. Punctuated by large percussive bombs to illustrate the seismic affect the loss of Objectivity is having on society, while passive strings signify the inert descent to compliance being widely witnessed.
The Iron Republic probably wouldn’t see the inside of a record company, as it’s devoid of anything resembling a hit single – though Glass comes closest – and the musical ideas need time to sit and be reflected upon. What it does do is show the potential of the Interzones for all creatives to shake the chains imposed by Marketing Departments to earth like dew and to be restrained only by their own creative limitation.
On the other hand, it does give idiots like me a platform to spout all manner of misinformed bollocks; but, hey, Magna Carta and all that.
There’s a whole world of music out there that record companies aren’t going anywhere near, and if that doesn’t inspire us to check it out I don’t know what will!