If your punk rocker friends seem a little happier this week, it’s not your imagination. It’s probably due to the fact that Dropkick Murphys—a.k.a. the Celtic gods of punk rock—have released their latest album titled “Signed and Sealed in Blood.” The album was released Jan. 8, 2013, and is the follow up album to their 2011 release, “Going Out in Style.” “Signed and Sealed in Blood” bursts with high-octane energy and insanely fast rhythms, showcasing the band’s range and musicianship. Basically, it’s a Monster energy drink for your ears.
The album opens with a song aptly named “The Boys Are Back,” and it takes merely seconds for you to hear the seven-man band’s trademark sound of bagpipes, banjoes, guitars, pounding drums and gruff voices. “The Boys Are Back” supplies an ample amount of large choruses, which is distinctly tailored to the band and, in my opinion, is one of the band’s signature strengths. While many artists today sound noticeably different on recordings compared to their live performances, Dropkick Murphys nearly always sound live on their albums. When you play their music it sounds like they’re jumping out at you, giving the music a sort of three-dimensional aural element.
Although I feel that any single off of “Signed and Sealed in Blood” couldn’t rival past hits such as “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” and “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” the album’s very polished and boasts well-balanced consistency. The single of the album seems to be “Rose Tattoo,” and rightfully so. This song encompasses most everything we love about Dropkick Murphys. It begins with a fantastic riff by either a banjo, guitar or mandolin; it’s hard to tell which instrument it is exactly, but that’s another thing you have to love about the band—there are so many instruments in play. The song highlights lead singer Alex Barr’s voice, which juxtaposes a deep rawness with a sort of fragility. Personal lyrics escalate into a powerful blend of voices that come together to form a memorable chorus. I’d say that their relentless, aggressive style is comparable to their punk rocking peers Flogging Molly and The Gaslight Anthem.
Other noteworthy songs on the album include; “The Battle Rages On,” “Don’t Tear Us Apart,” “Out Of Our Head” and “Jimmy Collins’ Wake.” The album also supplies one of the funniest and possibly coolest Christmas songs I’ve ever heard titled, “The Season’s Upon Us.” If you find the album too strong and too punk, take refuge in two relatively softer songs titled “End of The Night” and “Out On The Town.”
The only reservation I have about “Signed and Sealed in Blood” is its lack in variation. I would have liked to see more softer ballads; nothing too mushy, but enough of a drop in tempo to make you feel like the album is complete.
Singer and bass player Ken Casey explains the band’s intentions of the new album in an interview with Billboard.com from Jan. 8, saying, “We’re not striving to be Green Day or something, but I do think, with the nature of what we do musically and what our lyrical message is all about, there’s definitely a wider portion of the population that can relate to us. It’d be nice to see people actually hear about us, and I think that will happen with this album.”
Given the strikingly distinct features of the album that illuminates the band’s development, I’d say that Casey’s prediction is an accurate one.