Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dogwood More Than Conquerors (1999) Review

Dogwood "More Than Conquerors" (1999) LP Cover
Could thirteen tracks of pop punk rock completely change the way that you viewed music from the late 1990s? Probably not, but if you were a fan of the punk rock scene, especially anywhere near San Diego, California, then you knew that there were a lot of bands that were getting a lot of attention in the area. One of those bands was none other than Dogwood. Originally heralded as a Christian punk band, like many others in the scene on Tooth and Nail Records, the band progressed through a variety of different member changes, sounds, and created a unique brand of punk rock that most people don’t even know about. Today, I’m going to be jumping into a time machine to discuss the 1999 release from Dogwood, titled, “More Than Conquerors”. Whether you’re religious or not, you cannot deny that this is one of the best new school punk rock records ever put to compact disc, and yes, I said EVER!

Hit Them In The Mouth

The first track immediately throws you into a change of pace. If you remember the self-titled record from the band that came out in 1998, you knew that the band was on the cusp of something great. The first track is “Suffer” and it immediately throws you into a well-produced, frenetic punk rock sound with vocals that were very similar to what Nofx was doing at the time, only with a little bit more gusto. Josh Kemble’s vocals were a bit deeper than Fat Mike’s, but his delivery was similar, and the focus on the overlay with the music worked very well overall. For this particular recording, the line up was solid, featuring Josh Kemble, Russell Castillo, Sean O’Donnell, and Jason Harper. The four members created a sound that is just incredible overall, and works really well overall.

The band would go through lineup changes, but honestly, this is the key line up for the band. The first two tracks are fast, hard, and go through the lyrical elements that you’d expect from a band that had a religious tone, but without preaching, and it’s quite interesting to see how they put together the tracks and lyrics. Their third track, slowed things down and would be a radio hit for Christian radio, and a bit more for those that were in the Los Angeles area.

Booking The Band

One memorable point of my life is talking to the band on various occasions. At one point I was able to book the band to play a show in Ventura. The band charged me 1800 dollars, and they were going to play with a few of the bands that were on my record label. The promoter and I teamed up to get the show going, and I asked for a merch table. I recall the band played a great show, although they arrived nearly at the point of their set time. They jumped on stage, played some great songs, and eventually ended up not getting enough money. My crew and I ran out before we lost money, and after some time I would get a call from the lead singer. He said that I was supposed to have sent him a large envelop full of money. I never sent it. Oh well. Eventually the church paid them, but it wasn’t on me to pay the 1800, was it? I don’t know. I used to book bands and well was a terrible record label owner and promoter, but there’s my little booking story. I would see Dogwood play at Cornerstone, Chain Reaction, Garden Grove, Festivals, and much more.

A Rollercoaster of Punk Themes

The narrative of the record may initially start with a bit of religious tinge, but there’s more to this record than the sum of the religious parts. It’s hard to separate the band from their beliefs, but once you start to actually pay attention, you’re going to find that the talented foursome work together to build a new school punk level sound that is very much similar to bands you already like. For instance, you’ll find that the drumming matches up with bands like Lagwagon, the bass guitar works well as it does in Bad Religion, and of course the guitar work and vocals are similar to Nofx at various times. In fact, when I was listening to Nofx, I would change it up and listen tot his record as a cousin of theirs musically.

A Complete Album

Some records have singles, some records only have a few good songs, and then there are some records that are complete. You can’t just listen to one track, the entire album has amazing songs, and that’s what you’re going to find to be true about this album. “More Than Conquerors” has a lot of stand out tracks, and it’s easy to just sit in and listen to the whole thing all at once. However, if you’re going to finalize standout tracks, you’d have to listen to songs like, “Suffer”, “My Best Year”, “The Pain is Gone”, “Confusion Zero”, “Left Out Cold”, and “Out of the Picture” as some of the stand outs from this 1999 release.

I give Dogwood “More Than Conquerors” a 4 out of 5.

It’s not perfect, as many records are not perfect, but it has so much going for it that you cannot deny how good the band was in 1999. While others prefer their next record, I suggest starting here, as it is a very well-produced record with lots of punk rock ethos, fast paced music, and incredible distinctive new school punk sound. The band has a controlled chaos, and such talent, that you’re going to want to hear this record twice, it’s that good. Play this in a record store and you’ll have people asking you who they are and where they can pick up the record. It’s that good. Fans of Lagwagon, Nofx, Bad Religion, Pulley, and Propaghandi will love what Dogwood did in 1999, even if they didn’t get the mainstream success that their friends in P.O.D. got. This band still ignites with great punk rock sounds.

You can purchase “More Than Conquerors” by clicking here, and stream it if you’d like through other avenues.

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