At this point Riverboat Gamblers have enough side projects that there’s almost an expectation of sound before listening, that unifying factor between all the different bands that have spidered from the source band. Introduce Drakulas, who released an EP on Red Scare Industries last year and now come with a full-length Raw Wave debut on Dirtnap Records. Not only does the band have Gamblers’ vocalist Mike Wiebe, though, it also includes Zach Blair of Rise Against.
Rise Against namedrop aside, there is more Gambler sound to Drakulas than Rise Against – though the chugging rhythm is representative of the group. This is a melodic 10-song, 26-minute rock burner. It’s got classic to-the-point rock at its core: simple, emotional, powerful and a little sensual/trashy while avoiding the pitfalls of so much (genre-fied) classic rock. That means that, although this is somewhat by the book, it doesn’t have obnoxious solos or wankery. It’s just fast, melodic, and filled with hooks. Lyrically, it’s a concept record set 30-some years ago in the past in the boom of new analog technology.
The tunes here are shortish, basically two to three minutes each, with verse-chorus-verse arrangements and repetitive choruses that teach the name of the song on first impression. The drums carry the songs while the riffs lead the dance and the bass gives it nuance. Wiebe’s vocals never let up: he sings but it’s continually flowing with few breaks to catch his breath. His familiar style works great and, in most of the choruses, the harmonies jump in to relieve him of duty for a second before the refrains. Think of Riverboat Gamblers distilled to their core.
“Name In Your Mouth” is a standout with a forceful beat and hard enunciation directed at a second person “you” before building into a big hook chorus and some punchy secondary vocals. A minor complaint is the repetitive nature of the songs—for example, “Headphones/Split Throats” and “VHS” get a bit redundant at times, but the songs pummel so quickly that it never bogs it down, but instead makes you think “they already said that” and then it moves on. The guitar in “Stepping on Glass” reminds me a bit of the Misfits.
It’s really just to-the-point rock done right. Instead of dressing up Drakulas with a big inflated concept, Wiebe and Blair strip it down to 26 minutes of singalong fun.