Dragon Ash


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Freedom is a thrashing, pounding affair that brings back pieces of the punk music that Dragon Ash were once built upon. Here, their focus is clearly on hip-hop proper, with the punk thrown in as something of a stylistic coloration. On top of this mass, though, is a thick layer of reggae and ska, in both retro and modern versions. Though it may not be their intent, it's those touches of modern ska that come out as the most interesting here. Songs like "Tsunagari Sunset" give a surprising hint of Sublime in Kenji Furuya's delivery, which has just a bit of power and worry behind its fa├žade. Throw in a manic accordion line, as in "Dear Mosh Pit," or a full-blooded samba, as in the stunning album intro, and you get something with interest built in. The compositions can get a little sloppy as the energy rises, with the band simply blistering its way through until the result becomes something recognizable, as in the surprising and quivering cover of "La Bamba." Even the recognizable bits, such as "La Bamba," eventually devolve back into a thrashing mess, but that's the fun with Dragon Ash -- it's probably the only band you'll ever hear move a reggae-infused Ritchie Valens number into the mosh pit...in Japanese.