Reviews Drakulas Terminal Amusements


Terminal Amusements

Pre-album press releases for the latest Drakulas album pushed the “art-punk” label. Based on Drakulas’ earlier work, I got it – but I also thought it was a little bit off. They’ve always had elements of some deeper conceptual stuff going on, but it always felt too straight-forward and rollicking to me. Right or wrong, I associate art-punk as being something a little denser and something to wade through instead of singalong. Anyway, that’s a long way of saying I’m wrong, I guess. Because on Terminal Amusements it’s 100% the right term. It’s more refined than previous Drakulas records, but with that same sense of fun. Terminal Amusements is a big concept and the band is all in.

Drakulas has commonalities with the members’ other projects (Riverboat Gamblers and Rise Against, among others), but it deviates in instrumentation and diversity. Terminal Amusements is a true concept record. It’s set in a sci-fi urban wasteland cobbled together from movies like The Warriors (Read more in my interview with frontman Mike Wiebe.) It’s a world of sex, drugs, and video games. A world where the arcade is one of life’s great escapes from the depravity that surrounds it, but also a dog eat dog arena of its own. It’s a sordid setting. There’s song titled “Stained Mattress,” which should get the point across.

And to use that as a jumping point:
At its core, Drakulas play catchy punk ‘n’ roll. There’s swag, there’s sass, there’s debauchery, there’s fun. It has some hip-shaking grooves and sing-along hooks, even a big whoa-oh on “Panther.”

While it’s accessible rock ‘n’ roll, it’s detailed instead of formulaic. “Panther” has the ultimate pop-song copout of the whoa-oh, but it’s a technique that can be brilliantly executed – and it is here. The swagger of the song matches the lyrical content. When Wiebe sings “She moves like a panther,” you can picture the character prowling through the night, making her move when that big chorus strikes. “Level Up” is similar, bouncing between melody and punchy rhythm in tune with the story developments. This is the kind of record that’s so vivid you don’t need a video to bring the imagery to life (though a thematic laser show seems appropriate).

“Terminal Amusements” is another great example of the style. Like any title track on a concept record should be, this song really hits hard (and concludes the record). It’s driving and hooky, getting into your head and repeating the key themes like the finale of a musical. And, as a bonus, it gets those hooks into your brain, so when the record repeats, you’re ready for more.

7.4 / 10Loren
Shellshag - FUTQ
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