By: John Sturm
Dorje | website | facebook |
Released on October 14, 2016 via Self Released / Invisible Hands Music
Writing for this site has afforded me some very cool opportunities: new music to digest and write about, the chance to interview people I look up to, even the chance to talk on national Spanish radio about a band I reviewed. I’m lucky. In 2015 I got the chance to review Dorje’s first EP ‘Catalyst’ (it’s amazing) and I got the chance to go and interview the band at their Cardiff gig (they’re total gents and lovely fellas). So it was with almost psychotic intent that I grabbed the second EP for review. Apprehensive to begin with (I love the first EP so much it borders on weird), I had a number of questions: would it be better than Catalyst? Would it feature the same hooks vs groove combo? Would I love it as much as the first one? Let’s begin (tl;dr answers at the end).
EP number two, Centred and One begins with the terrifyingly screamed opening line “I will guide your way”, vocalist/guitarist Rob Chapman sounds like the kind of tour guide you’d run away from at high speed. But it’s ok, because here comes the opening riff of title track ‘Centred and One’. It both swaggers and demands you bang your head. And it’s this groove and mosh that have become a huge strength for Dorje; it’s music you want to dance to yet are also compelled to head bang to. It’s a meaty bouncy track that will go over a treat in the live setting.
‘Outspoken’ rumbles into view with a jagged splintering riff that gives way to a chugging riff that made my foot involuntary stomp the floor. I had no control over it. And this is the key to Dorje – they combine riffs that crushes your face in whilst making you want to shimmy your hips to the groove and melodies. Damn them. Showing a deft touch with shade, ‘Outspoken’ traverses both heaviness and a more restrained vibe, allowing the listener to appreciate the weight and build of the song.
‘To Survive’ takes the aggression down a notch and really allows Chapman’s vocals to develop a stirring melody, which drives the song. A more mid-paced song featuring some sterling and enchanting solo work, this has radio hit written all over it (and that’s not a bad thing!). Finishing on a soundscape of strings, it leaves with a slightly unsettled feeling which is highlighted all the more when the altogether more harmonious strings that open ‘Zero’ shimmer into view. With its lilting rhythm and a sweetly sung vocal, there’s a real sense of space and air in this track. The calm before the storm. Not to say it’s all gentle though: it builds into a soaring chorus that manages to be both jagged yet eminently singable. The EP finishes with the single ‘Flower of Life’ that encapsulates everything that is great about Dorje. It has a wonderful off-kilter heavy riff, a melodic heavy riff that adds an almost dissonant vibe to the song, a picked note section that bows to the vocal, and a chorus that begs to be sung by a crowd of sweaty fans. And dear GOD those screams at the end of the song? Chappers, mate, you’ll do yourself an injury like that.
Billed as the second part of an album that began with Catalyst (you can read my review of that here), how does 2016 find Dorje after an incredible 2015? In fine fettle, that’s where. Continuing the innovation and song writing chops of the first EP, this takes us further on the journey with the band. This is definitely a step up in many areas. The production is brighter and sounds more alive, the playing is jaw dropping – drummer Ben Minal displaying the ability to play in the pocket of a rhythm whilst at the same time, throwing in fills and patterns that break my brain, bassist Dave Hollingsworth holding everyone together but not content to stick to the root note adding texture and weight, guitarist Rabea Massaad who, all hyperbole aside, is a genius guitar player; riffs, solos that seem a doddle to play belie a technicality that few players have. He is able to make something complex and fiddly sound simple. And let’s not forget guitarist and vocalist Rob Chapman. His performance on this EP is stunning. I mean, leaps and bounds above what he did on the first EP (and that was pretty bloody good too). His work on his vocals since the last EP really shows. He’s commanding, aggressive, desperate, melodic… and other adjectives that I can’t quite think of at this moment. I recently played ‘Flower Of Life’ to a mate of mine who had heard the first EP and liked it but was a bit unsure about Rob’s vocals, he couldn’t decide whether he liked them or not. After hearing ‘Flower of Life’ , said mate was flabbergasted that this was the same singer. His quote? “Those vocals are the balls, son”. (That’s a positive, by the way.)
So. All things considered I’d say Dorje should be pretty bloody happy and proud of this second EP. It’s hooky, it’s heavy, it’s singable…. it’s everything you should look for in good music. My only complaint? The time I had to wait between EP 1 and 2. Let’s not make it so long for the next one please chaps (Chappers?!). The band are on tour in the UK in November. I suggest you buy your tickets soon. As in now. Go on. Now, I said.
tl:dr – Yes. Very much yes. Oh bloody hell does it ever. No. I love it more.