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Dredg - Leitmotif ©1998 Self-Released
1. Movement I: @45 N. 180degrees W
2. Lechium
3. Movement II: Crosswind Minuet
4. Traversing Through the Arctic Cold, We Search For the Spirit of the Yuta
5. Intermission
6. Movement III: Lyndon
7. Penguins in the Desert
8. Movement IV: RR
9. Yatahaze
10. Movement V: 90 Hour Sleep

By the time this California quartet recorded its debut in 1998, Dredg had already honed its sound to a potent mixture of ambitious, exotic prog and groovy alt-hardcore, resulting in the quasi-concept album that is Leitmotif.

Ostensibly a concept album dealing with one man's sojourn around the world in an effort to find himself, Leitmotif doesn't quite reach the dizzying heights of its follow-up, El Cielo (admittedly, not many albums do), but taken on its own, is a more than apt debut of a band that, in time, would become something truly special. Meant to be played as a continuous piece of music as opposed to a fractured collection of songs, there is a great sense of flow throughout, even if not all of the ingredients necessarily measure up to the tastiest of dishes. Still, opening number "Movement I" and "Movement II: Crosswind Minuet" still rank as two of the band's best songs. The completely solid rhythm section of Dino Campanella and Drew Roulette form the basis for the majority of the songs, providing near-tribal grooves, while Gavin Hayes had yet to grow into the shoes of the consummate frontman he would eventually become. His contributions vary from somewhat tuneful emo-tastic singing to throaty albeit balls-less hardcore yells, and are buried very low in the mix. Guitarist Mark Engles, while not demonstrating as vast of an array of effects pedals, presents riffs and melodies that are tasteful, to the point, and a tad more textured than most of the band's converse-wearing contemporaries. Perhaps the sole truly head-scratching moment comes in the form of the interminable doodling filler that follows "Movement V: 90 Hour Sleep". Really, it just sounds like a poorly recorded rehearsal jam with aimless synth noodling layered on top of it. It's wholly unnecessary and would have been better left on the cutting room floor.

While not as clear in its ambitions as its follow-up, Leitmotif was unique enough to stand apart from its contemporaries at the time of its release, leaving most of the Korn and Deftones sound-alikes in the dust. It was apparent, even at this early stage in the band's career, that something wonderful was in the works.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 08/2009

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