Like The Doors or Queen performing with new lead singers in recent years, at first listen, Insects with Angel Wings plays like a revamped Led Zeppelin reunion album—something Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham might have recorded without Robert Plant. But with multiple listens, Dropsonic reveals that flaunting their influences with careless abandon can lead to flashes of greatness. Make no mistake, what Dropsonic is doing is nothing new. Like The Cult a generation before, Dropsonic has picked up the heavy metal-cum-post-punk mantle and run with it. But for being what could amount to nothing more than the heir to an heir, Dropsonic is successful.
Building off of the strengths of 2002’s Belle, Insects with Angel Wings finds core trio of Dan Dixon, Brian Hunter, and Dave Chase paying homage to the rock gods that came before them, while carving out a solid foundation for them to construct their own mythology. Opening with Dixon’s guitar scratch, “Summer’s Gone” claws and scrapes its way through a near-perfect four-minute exercise blending classic rock, blues, and southern country rock that Collective Soul hasn’t yet been able to accomplish. And the Dropsonic trio manages to produce a sound bigger and fuller than Collective Soul ever has in a dozen years trying.
With a guitar lead-in so steeped in ‘70s hard rock, “Rotten Luck” could be a long-lost Zoso b-side. Layered and forceful dynamics ripple throughout the track, giving the song an epic feel. Hunter’s sparse but powerful drumming is perfectly complemented by Chase’s bass in this slow burn that grows and pushes and stretches into a full-blown jam. When Dixon finally lets loose with tandem howls from both his voice and his guitar, there is no doubt about the band’s influence or potential.
Insects with Angel Wings sometimes feels a bit schizophrenic in how close to the surface the influences lay, but these are also some of the strongest tracks on the album. Proving that the white space is as important to the complete canvas as splashes of color, “It Makes No Difference” tempers Hunter’s drumming with quiet moments of Chase’s bass and Dixon’s Bowie-meets-Orgy’s Jay Gordon vocal vibe. While the lyrics tell a tale of a level playing field (“It makes no difference what you want / we all go down by the wrecking ball / and it makes no difference who you are / kings, queens, and movie stars”), it becomes obvious over the course of this album that Dropsonic are moving above the rest and headlong towards success.
While not a top-to-bottom masterpiece, Insects with Angel Wings has more highs than lows. For every directionless “Headless”, which meanders for nearly eight minutes, there is a focused gem like “My Girl”. A three-and-a-half minute harmonica blues stomper that demands you sit up and take notice, “My Girl” finds Dixon wishing and wailing out in front of Hunter’s Bonham beats that he had never met the woman. It’s a centerpiece cut if ever there was one.
With the classic rock reunions that highlighted Live 8 and the Rolling Stones on tour behind another new album, it seems the time might be right for Dropsonic to make their move. If nothing else, the boys of Dropsonic have the potential to be the leaders of a straight-ahead hard rock revival that would benefit from some new blood. It’s going to be fun to watch these guys continue to develop.