Double Handsome Dragons are a semi-instrumental band from Peterborough, UK. They are four young males: Phil Mitchell (guitar), Dan Kerr (guitar), James Mitchell (drums), and Simon Moore (bass). Fred Nolan from The Silent Ballet describes their music; “Extended clips from old movies, campy sci-fi film trailers, and infamous political speeches share real estate with savage guitar riffs, concussive rhythm sections, and space-madness electronica. The track list steadily courses with more and more adrenaline, each successive cut delivering a better dose than the last. Hard rock, alt-metal, hip hop, and straight-up indie rock all make cameo appearances here, while the old soundbites do nearly all of the talking.”
They describe their making music process like this: “We create at night in a decaying unit of breeze blocks. We drink tea out of dirty mugs and wish that our hands were warmer. We have to fight daily with potted plants and lawnmowers to get to our instruments. Sometimes they attack us. We have scars. We have a sledgehammer - we smash up old washing machines. The skip is not our friend. We play four different kinds of music at the same time using instruments we do not care for. We made a Studio, we named it Studio Terror. It is yellow. We are safe and warm there. We like to travel to far away lands to play shows for decent, handsome people. We dance. We enjoy shouting in peoples faces.”
And about the new EP; “Double Handsome Dragons is our 4th recording. We invested in microphones and monitors and other things we don’t understand and built ourselves a studio; Studio Terror. Six songs, the efforts of many weeks of hard toil, were recorded on hot summer nights in-between barbeques and poor quality TV viewing. On such a night we were visited by beasts not from this world. This record attempts to document our discussions of that evening. We do not understand the sounds; but we like them. We have a spark. And this is our fire.”
Muzik Reviews / Doug Morrissey
Straight outta Peterborough, East, United Kingdom doesn’t have the same mysticism as Straight Outta Compton but the power is there all the same. Double Handsome Dragons, which sounds like it should be the name of a narcissistic karate dojo, is a semi-instrumental, as described on their website, Hardcore / Healing & Easy Listening band. That description alone is scary and sounds like Slayer singing Frank Sinatra covers in a Buddhist temple. Thankfully, that’s not what you get.
What you do get is a well-produced hell of a mix of sounds and tempos that could be the soundtrack for bi-polar disorder. At times in the first song ,“Made by Devils”, the music is so manic it’s hard to keep up and then, just when you get up to speed, it fades into something else like a Transformer that goes from being a car crusher to a feather duster. It’s all at once brilliant and confusing like Einstein talking backwards. The guitars are crushing and the drummer is just pissed and then…it morphs into something jazzy. It is very interesting.
This album only has six tracks on it that run along the same lines as the first song. “Wisbech & Other Such Galaxies” is a twisting, turning delight starting off with a screaming punk rock style vocal track that leads into an almost progressive rock interlude that leads into full speed ahead rock as the band seems to grow tired of playing quietly. It reminds me of the industrial rock of the early 90’s with the samples and other things that pop up in the music. “Ronald Ray-Gun” is humorous with its sampling of Ronald Reagan. The music for this one has a great background of electronica style that is hiding just behind the blaring rock but, like all the songs, this song has more folds than a cheap suit as the music style changes frequently. The other 3 songs are very much like the previous 3 in the way they go fast and slow, relaxing and frantic.
Double Handsome Dragons is an interesting mix and seems much like an experiment in sound. All in all it works well in the EP form presented here but I would be afraid that a long form album would get tiresome. With that said, I would still be interested in hearing if they could pull it off as well as they did this.
The Silent Ballet / Fred Nolan Score: 7.5/10
The good news: Double Handsome Dragons does not merely represent another step forward for a competent recording artist. An eponymous mini-album, it is bigger, louder, angrier, funnier, and altogether better than any of Double Handsome Dragons' previous work. The group's debut EP1 marked the rise of a talented, synth-minded post-rock quartet. The subsequent A musical study of vicious, flying insects fared much better in post-production, and introduced their quintessentially English shout-vocals. Yet it did not represent true progress, and The Silent Ballet's Kyle Williams likened it to a 'band caught staring at itself in the mirror.' The April 2009 release Lions & Tigers and Holy Shit What Was That?!! failed to tell listeners anything new.
However, this new release sees the group revitalised, a DHD2.0. Extended clips from old movies, campy sci-fi film trailers, and infamous political speeches share real estate with savage guitar riffs, concussive rhythm sections, and space-madness electronica. The track list steadily courses with more and more adrenaline, each successive cut delivering a better dose than the last. Hard rock, alt-metal, hip hop, and straight-up indie rock all make cameo appearances here, while the old sound bites do nearly all of the talking. There is little subtlety here.
Dragons begins in earnest with the third track, "Ronald Ray-gun". Here a fast, high-register synthesizer rhythm builds to a raw prog-rock interlude. Named after the 40th U.S. president, "Ray-gun" features an unflattering sample from Reagan's 'alien threat' speech to the UN General Assembly. The Dragons' mockery is unambiguous and effective, arranging the late president's comments (example: 'I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat') amidst cascading guitar and dreamlike space synth. When Reagan's reverie ends, the music takes a heavy, ferocious turn with metal guitar and percussion. The vocals are caricatured: distorted, delivered in primal screams and all but indecipherable. But one repeated lyric rises above the noise, 'the Martians are coming!'
Stateside listeners staring at their shoes during "Ronald Ray-gun" will likely duck throughout most of "Los Diablos Del Espacio". The initial impression is that of a conventional rap rock piece, until a short historical audio clip reveals itself: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's fiery September 2006 speech to the UN ('the devil came here today', spoken of then-president George W. Bush, and of American imperialism in general). The track builds momentum throughout its second half, trading in global politics for astronaut synthesizer loops. An alarm sounds during the hard-hitting climax, and the impact is hair-raising. "Los Diablos Del Espacio" resembles a countdown to annihilation, and makes clear that the threat to mankind isn't coming from outer space. It is a masterful bit of apocalyptic songwriting. The use of guitar, laser-sharp electronica and rhythm section here is downright orchestral.
The closing piece, "Are We Not the Future of This Nation?", employs the 'Look up, Hannah' speech from the film The Great Dictator to bewildering effect. In the character of the Jewish barber, Charlie Chaplin implores 'Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers,' while pulsing synthesizer and simple, devastating rock stand in as soundtrack. The long, somewhat corny speech may not worked as the dénouement to a slapstick comedy film, but there is little question that it does here. "Are We Not the Future" is one of the largest compositions of 2010, in any genre. Even the ridiculous 90-second coda - a cheesy, even tedious keyboard solo - seems written to underscore the unstoppable and inspiring post-rock that came just before.
By the closing track, it is pretty obvious that the space invaders subplot is a dodge - and that Double Handsome Dragons speaks a larger message of resistance and freedom. The Cosmic Monsters might have been a perfectly brilliant film for its time, but the trailer is only sampled here as a juxtaposition. Today we could use a bit more science, and a bit less science fiction. It is possible that some audiences will be turned off by the politics, and others, by the camp. But where previous material reflected a glimmer in their eye, Double Handsome Dragons reveals also an angry twitch. This concise and exhilarating piece of music making is prone to excess, but it generates very little waste.
GiggingNI / Jason Murdock
It is common knowledge that Belfast gigs can sometimes be a bit of a mixed bag in terms of quality, but when a band like Double Handsome Dragons hit the stage with the ferocity and kind of wide eyed passion usually reserved for a band with nothing to lose, it is clear that you have stumbled into a room where something very special is going down. Double Handsome Dragons took to the stage and did the only thing that they know, which is to shout loudly directly in the audiences faces. This in many ways could be considered bad form, but tonight they get their point across perfectly. Sounding like a mix of Reuben, Refused, and local gods-of-the-hour And So I Watch You From Afar, their style of half-instrumental rock was more akin to getting repeatedly punched in the ribs, but in the best way possible. The guitarist, with his eyes wide and rock stance intact, managed to furiously attack his guitar while not missing a beat, which must be hard considered the bands reliance on backing tracks. There was a sense of revelation in the crowd at this point. The time where you realise that this is not only another random gig that bands are obliged to take part in, if only in order to spread their name (see, this band are from England), but it's clear for all to see that Double Handsome Dragons are on par, if not well over, of any band that Northern Ireland has to offer. This in itself it worrying, but tonight the only thought entering my head was one of constant surprise. While the vocals are sporadic and not quite sing-able, they are completely of a random nature, coming at the most unexpected times. In this sense they remind of Sikth, but are in no way as self indulgent. All in all, by the time this band had finished their set, it was obvious by both the look on peoples faces, and the ringing in my ears, that this band have something that many bands should hope to achieve in their lifetime, which is a focus on passion, unrelenting attitude, and tight playing that ensure that Double Handsome Dragons will be back. Take note, or miss out.
No Ripcord / Chris Coplan
Instrumental bands are already at a disadvantage compared to standard musical acts before note one ever pours through the speaker. That'd be thanks to the clear lack of lyrics, those handy dandy creations that help instill a more concrete emotional sentiment. But if you're looking for a band who overcomes that handicap rather readily, look no further than Peterborough, UK's Double Handsome Dragons.
Standard rock music, represented by sturdy, rhythmic drumming and powerful flourishes of guitar virtuosity, serve as the band's baseline and comfort zone. From there, the group skillfully apply varying loads of dialogue from campy sci-fi trailers and impassioned political speeches, and, as the cherry on the post-rock sundae, globs and globs of electronica and computer junk noise. A rather mundane and predictable formula ends up creating interesting and unique moments. Whether it's the semi-nortec, blip-y epic that is Los Diablos Del Espacio, the near-8-minute schizo blast of metal licks, ambiance, and indignant rage of Are We Not The Future Of This Nation?, or the tongue-in-cheek prog/jazz rock double header of the deliciously-titled Ronald Ray-Gun, the band are masters at coupling their influences together to offer up tracks that are concise and cutting and still sweeping and with a sense of complete and total abandonment. And with several tracks ending in bizarre, out-of-this world flourishes that spike between pop and alt hip-hop, there's only one fact you can be comfortable in: everything is a perfect mess you just can't peel yourself away from.
A movie sample from the track Made by Devils asks the listener, "...The Earth will be devastated by an invasion of the cosmic monster. But what of the human element? Can man withstand the incredible force of this uncontrollable holocaust from outer space?", as if to ponder who will win when the foursome's organic rock and technological wizardry do battle. Even without oh-so-helpful word clues, the answer is clear when it comes to the Double Handsome Dragons: we do.
Caleidoscoop / Jan Willem Broek
After Portugal and Russia, rising label Fluttery's post-rock ship moors in England. Here they find Phil Mitchell (guitar, vocals), Dan Kerr (guitar), James Mitchell (drums), and Simon Moore (bass) from Peterborough. As Double Handsome Dragons they now release their self titled EP clocking almost 35 minutes. This CD, their fourth release, moves within the post-rock genre, but often transgresses that genre's boundaries. For example, they often use hard beats bringing them closer to a band like 65daysofstatic. Additionally, they incorporate Thursday's post-hardcore, Envy's destructively epic noise, The Mars Volta's hard-rock with psychedelic elements, and Guapo's avant-rock. In this mix they even sometimes add elements of hip hop. Sometimes they also use ecstatic singing or voice samples from old thrillers, sci-fi movies, and political speeches in their mainly instrumental music. Despite all these elements, they manage to create one consistent and above all strong fist with their music. Parallel to this, they also seem to announce the apocalypse, in which we are attacked by aliens. It is no wonder that there is considerable aggression involved. But man, man, ... such incredible power! Ingenious, sweeping walls of guitar. Intimidatingly good.
Baby Blaue / Siggy Zielinski (rating 11/15)
The base of the music of the quartet from the UK seems to me a combination of post rock, alternative rock and art rock. The post-rock epic guitar cascades are repeatedly interrupted by electronically generated sound collages, and the prog / post-metal related passages. The ever-varying proportion of electronics contributes significantly to the originality of Double Handsome Dragons.
Ytsjam / Tommy Hash
As many indie rock bands have moved into more experimental directions, adding technical nuances to the garage rock three chord progression, the worlds of post rock and noise pop have seen an expansion with bands that don't bound themselves to any musical blueprint. One band that is certainly making bold moves musically and artistically is the UK's Double Handsome Dragons.
With a six song EP, this band utilizes crunch laden droning & jangly guitars, sound effects, occasional keyboards, dense production, and an intense set of jam sessions to create their enigmatic melodic monstrosity. This EP can get noisy and aggressive at times, but their artistic cohesion melded with the melodic sensibility sees the sound relevant to Long Distance Calling, Oceansize, and even some elements of modern space rock ala Spiritualized and Collapse Under the Empire. The tracks range from lush, yet belligerent soundscpes ("Wisbech & Other Such Galaxies") to psychotic power pop ("010110") to stoner grind laden overtures ("Are We Not the Future of This Nation?") giving way to an abundance of melodic and memorable riffage across the board where there tends to be a loose groove around carefully constructed songs, along with cinematic overtones in possession.
A very well-crafted album that doesn't get carried away, maintaining an intriguing and accessible sound upon the ears, Double Handsome Dragons are one of the big players to watch in the world of experimental indie rock.
Zeugolator / Dimitris Papadopoulos
Well, there are plenty of reasons to love the new Double Handsome Dragons Ep. They are combining the monstrous riffs and the electronic beats we loved in the 65daysofstatic music with some excellent samples (political speeches usually) to amplify the impact of their music like Maybeshewill did. Although I had some second thoughts when I first put these songs on my player, after the third, fourth time, I loved them. Tracks full of audacity, energy, ferocity and freshness. I can only think of what's happening on an Double Handsome Dragons live show, enormous amplifiers kicking you on the chest and savage beats exploding in your face, a perfect way to test your stamina.