More Than Conquerors
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Length: 13 tracks / 34:03 minutes
It's been a few years since I went through my surf-punk phase, every
morning cranking the speedy rhythms and off-key harmonies to whip me into
an energetic state suitable for surfing at 6 A.M. No Use for a Name,
Pennywise, NOFX, Face to Face...those were the days.
Dogwood's fourth album, More Than Conquerors, brings it all
back. They've been one of Christian punk's most mature-sounding bands in
recent years, known for their variety-conscious mixing of hardcore and
rock sounds into the fray. Their self-titled last album was released independently
but sold more copies in their native San Diego than simultaneously releases
by more well-known hometowners like Blink 182, Unwritten Law, and Sprung
That probably helped earn them a spot on Tooth & Nail's roster
with More Than Conquerors. Their opportunity to reach a much larger
audience, however, finds them streamlined and solidly in the pop punk pocket.
They've sacrificed their uniqueness for a tried and true formula. Dogwood
still sounds a bit more manly and muscular in the vocals and guitars than
the likes of MxPx and Slick Shoes, and they're still mixing it up with
variations on tempo, vocals, and guitar tones; but it would have been nice
to hear something other than extremely competent semi-imitation of popular
punk sounds. After a few listens, though, you tend to forget any complaints.
These guys are tight.
The lyrics are serious and mature, fulfilling the album's title
with imagery-laden tales of personal struggle. The album begins with downtrodden
songs like "Suffer" and "Feel the Burn" but progresses to Christcore positivity
with "The Pain is Gone" and the title track at the end. Solid.
I would have expected more creativity and musical experimentation
from Dogwood's "big" label bust-out rather than the safe road they've taken,
but at least they drive it fast and drive it well. This is one of the most
authentic Christian pop punk records made to date.
Josh Spencer (6/25/99)