On their self-titled debut album, Milwaukee’s Drugs Dragons conjure up a world in which the sensitive, bearded troubadours of recent years never ventured outside their cabins, and shock-artistes like Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, The Cramps, and Misfits still gleefully rule the music landscape. A long-form, loving homage to a time when groups weren’t afraid to write songs named “Graveyard Whiskey” or “(I’m In A) Braingrave,” Drugs Dragons serves as a corrective to years of banjo picking and umlaut-neglect. Whether that corrective is little more than a one-note joke is irrelevant—it’s a pretty good one.
Fronted by scene stalwart Luke Chappelle, Drugs Dragons make no bones about their throwback mission statement. Opener “Carnivore” is a terrific slab of sludge-horror, stocked with chanted choruses and over-the-top lyrics that would send the ’80s-era PMRC into hysterics. The hilarious “Chuds In Love” follows suit, as do the bare-bones—but samey—“Cobwebs” and “Drug Vultures.” Reverb-drenched, throat-shredding vocals are a hallmark throughout, along with plenty of dopey, alcohol-soaked riffs. And while the 11-track album is impeccably produced and performed, there’s just enough giddy amateurishness seeping through its cracks to keep things fresh and unpredictable.
All of this wouldn’t work, of course, unless Drugs Dragons had a sense of humor. “Rat People” is good, dumb fun (“I hate the rat people!”), and “Sunscraper” features more growling monster vocals in under three minutes than previously thought possible. The sludgy “Skinned Creatures” perhaps takes things a step too far, however, and is one of only a handful of moments when Drugs Dragons spoil their own spell and come dangerously close to parody.
Still, when Chappelle menacingly intones, “Kill the pigs, kill your parents, kill yourself!” during the delightful “Predator Weapons,” it’s hard not to think back to the frothy heavy metal hysteria of yesteryear and smile. As it is, Drugs Dragons stands as one of the better metal albums that 1983 never produced.
Drugs Dragons play an album release show Oct. 2 at Club Garibaldi.