Dom and Roland – Last Refuge of a Scoundrel LP
Words by Mat Taylor
Dom creates music that influences people. Without him, the world of drum and bass would be a very different and less interesting place. His list of underground anthems and his work as an engineer make him one of the most significant artists in the genre. From Moving Shadow to Metalheadz, Renegade Hardware to Violence, Tech Itch Recordings to his own label DRP, he is one of a few founding fathers of this incredible scene. Combine this with the fact that this album is being released on the label that needs no introduction and you will understand what we’re dealing with here.
‘Last Refuge of a Scoundrel’ is one of this year’s most anticipated DnB releases. Combine Metalheadz with Dom and Roland and this is what you get; an ambitious, complex and grown up album that is already sending shock waves through the scene and beyond. Rather than giving you a track by track run down, I’ve selected a few of my personal favourites and tried to talk about the album as a whole. Not everybody will like this, including some hardcore Dom and Roland fans, but those who do will treasure this album along with their battered ‘Platinum Breakz’ tin and their ripped copy of Dillinja’s ‘Cybotron’. It’s up there, seriously.
Dom’s sound has all the drama and complexity of a film soundtrack, he’s already been dubbed ‘the Ridley Scott of drum and bass’ by the NME and with a back catalogue that stretches back to the birth of the genre, his contribution to our music is phenomenal. ‘Last Refuge of a Scoundrel’ continues the saga of Dom’s evolution by introducing more complex musicality into the controlled brutality that we know and love him for. Metalheadz have a dedication to the integrity of the music they release that is unrivalled within drum and bass and this is yet another must have release that showcases the ever changing and developing sounds of an artist and a label in a class of their own.
Opening track ‘Sirens Song’ will divide people. It’s a song. You know, with words and things. They don’t happen that often in drum and bass, but occasionally, people make them. Personally, I just can’t get away with this kind of vocal. I’ve said it before, and it’s based on nothing except my own preference, but it just doesn’t do it for me. That’s not to say it’s not any good though, the singer is very talented and the overall tone of the tune is an impressive combination of melancholy and force without veering into the cringe worthy melodrama of bastardised 80s power balladry, but it’s probably my least favourite track. Saying that, as an introduction to the album as a whole, Siren’s Song works well, creating a long and dramatic build up that leads us in to the mindblowing ferocity of ‘Tone Poem.’
I had the pleasure of witnessing Doc Scott drop this in the closing minutes of his set recently. The carnage on the dancefloor led to an immediate rewind and a lot of noise. Dom keeps pushing the boundaries of drum and bass with these epic, planet crushing tracks. Yes, he’s done this before and no, it’s not really anything particularly new, but listen to it. This is a sound that Dom created with tracks like ‘Imagination’ and more recently ‘Jedi’ and ‘Maximus’. It’s a huge, intoxicating sound that terrifies as many as it excites. It’s incredible. This isn’t just hard for the sake of hard, either. There is some serious skill involved in the rendering of those ungodly basslines and those chest pounding drums. After being released as part of a sampler before the full release of the LP, this will already be a firm favourite among DJs and punters alike.
Another of my favourites is ‘DMT’, featuring ‘Hive’, one of Drum and Bass’s most underrated producers in my opinion. The bassline echoes Hive’s anthem ‘Neo’ until those subs take over and things get switched up completely by the drop. ‘DMT’ was also released as part of a sampler (alongside ‘Inna Soul Jah’), and like ‘Tone Poem’ it screams for the rewind as soon as those Terminator synths descend upon your ears. Occupying that unusual hinterland between the full on kick and snare armageddon of the super hard stuff and the technical but rolling sound of Ed Rush and Optical, from a DJ’s point of view, Dom tracks like this are as versatile as they are powerful. This could be the climax to a set that’s been building up from softer styles or the introduction to a hard set full of Tech Itch and Limewax.
‘King of the Hustlers’, on the other hand, uses The Fatboys’ Human Beatbox sample in a way I’ve never heard before, and the result is another incredible tune that has all of the blistering intensity and swagger that made us love tracks like ‘Cigars and Money’ from another of Dom’s albums ‘The Big Bang.’ I don’t know of any other tracks around that sound like this. Something of a rarity in a scene that thrives on reproducing successful formulas until they get old. ‘A New Renegade’ is ironically (perhaps deliberately) a nod to the classic Renegade Hardware sound, full of skipping, fidgety jungle breaks, but with a huge mentasm sound in the middle of the track which is a purposeful and appreciative nod to Goldie’s ‘Terminator’. Like every other track on this album, this has musical elements to offset the raw chaos of breaks and bass. There’s a minor key piano riff that floats in over the beats and the chords in the background create a strange but effective contrast to the dark rave vibes that make up the core of this unusual, experimental track. ‘Rockers’ will be another dancefloor favourite. That bubbling bassline has the kind of vibe that made Ram Trilogy’s ‘Molten Beats’ such a great album and the beats are reminiscent of Dillinja when he was all about complicated drum fills and unusual breaks.
This album, then, is unmistakably Dom, but there’s another layer to it that isn’t present on his earlier work. There’s subtlety here as well as volume and power. ‘Sacrifice’, featuring Natalie Duncan is another soulful, vocal tune that will take fans of Dom’s typically tech heavy sound by surprise. Reminiscent of Die and Break’s hit ‘Slow Down’ but with a more complex drum arrangement, this one grew on me. Like one or two other tracks on the album, it’s ambitious, experimental and not necessarily made for the dancefloor, but it works really well as part of the album as a whole. There are no bad tracks here, no fillers or tunes that feel as if they don’t belong. The art of putting together a coherent album is difficult, especially for dance music producers who rely on sounds rather than lyrics to tell their stories, but this feels like a complete project that has been designed to work as a sum of its composite parts. Not every track on here will make DJs and ravers lose their shit, but that isn’t always the point. Some of these tunes don’t drop until around the three minute mark and although that used to be commonplace, it’s pretty rare now. There are no 30 second intros followed by big snare rolls here: this is a completely different style of drum and bass to the one many people are familiar with.
Dom has clearly poured his heart and soul in to this album and the end result feels like a complicated and detailed story that needs to be experienced a few times to be fully understood. In ‘Last Refuge of a Scoundrel’ we have a self contained piece of sonic art that was built with drum and bass fans in mind, but with a freedom and sense of experimentation that defy the often restrictive structures of the genre. Do yourself a favour, listen to this album from start to finish on a good quality sound system or at the very least, some headphones. Your undivided attention will be rewarded by a cinematic tour de force of some of the best drum and bass in this artist’s career.
This album is out on the 7th of October on Metalheadz. Do yourself a favour and pre-order it by clicking here.