Chasing Dragons – Checkmate EP
Buy: Checkmate [Explicit]
Out on the 2nd June, the new EP from Chasing Dragons is a six-track exploration of rock and metal that doesn’t quite live up to the imagination of the prologue but proves to be an EP that fans of chugging guitars will lap up but works better when they pull back a bit on the fret-bashing and offer something more balanced as they do on track five.
The atmospheric short prelude, which mixes the off-shoots from the Jaws soundtrack with a Shakespeare-like script and the dripping water of a dodgy student cellar, sets up a ‘Game of Thrones’ style mood with its collection of sound effects, storms, and violins that give way to crunchy guitars. Ninety seconds of atmosphere that gets your ready for the main bulk of the 22-minute EP.
‘Throw Down Your King’, at least keeping the chess theme going, shows the female-led Leeds band on high energy form with plenty of chugging guitar and attitude, even if the vocals do get drowned a little by the speed and volume of the instruments, though they avoid the usual trapping of screaming the lyrics and lead singer Tank adds a sense of style to the lyrics. With a hint of Alestorm in its breakdown, it does come across a little at times of a band trying to make as much crunching metal noise as possible and it’s much more enjoyable in the less guitar-heavy moments, but it all comes together into a strong rock package.
‘That’s Not Love’ puts Tank’s vocals more central and is all the better for it, the lyrics over just the drums opening setting up the song well and this style makes for the best moments of the song. With a distinct guitar solo that takes you back to Iron Maiden, the third track feels more like a successful balance of the music and vocals and the pace and introduction of the instrumentation makes this a better listen and the centrepiece of the EP.
Track four – ‘For The Sake of Murder’ – is again made by the clearer, hooky lyrics but let down by the generic guitar playing in the verses which doesn’t establish a clear sound or riff. The call-and-response nature in the chorus adds something extra as does the fist-punching ending, but it lacks the distinctiveness of the previous song outside of the chorus.
‘The Last Defence’ feels like a refreshing change at this point, with a solo piano opening that adds some more gravitas to the EP, with Tank’s vocals proving to be up there with, say, Evanescence’s Amy Lee but with the grittier sound of The Pretty Reckless. With some neat harmonies and a Muse-sound as it progresses, the balance of instrumentation is much better here and ‘Chasing Dragons’ play to their strengths when they pace back their guitars and let some of the other elements breath, as they do here. Coming across as their rock opera of the EP, this is my favourite song on the six-track.
The EP comes to a conclusion with ‘Broken Jaws’, a song more fitting into the style shown on the previous tracks and wraps things up thematically even if it is not the most memorable piece on the collection. Overall fans of rock and metal that mix more classic sounds with modern heavy metal will enjoy this EP. It’s at its best when trying something different – like on ‘The Last Defence’ – but the mix of heavy guitars, strong vocals and a fast pace make this a very listenable 22-minutes.