The Dragons of Zynth rize above the comparisons, combining afro, soul, techno, punk and more on their debut release, Coronation Thieves. Twins Aku and Akwetey O.T. front this Cleveland-by-way-of-Brooklyn band, which made its first big splash back in 2005 opening for Brooklyn’s own afro-techno-punk outfit, TV On the Radio, and the similarities between the two don’t end there. However, while the Dragons obviously owe a debt both career-wise and musically to TVOTR, the four-piece goes beyond their inspiration to create their own sound on Coronation Thieves.
The TVOTR parallels would be most obvious on Thieves’ opening track, “War Lover”, a title that practically begs comparison with TVOTR’s own “I Was A Lover (Before This War)”. But instead, the piece combines a lo-fi approach with subtle, high vocals to play as something truly different. If anything, the subsequent “Breaker” is more akin to the Radio, thanks to its slow crashes and afro-techno-soul. However, that isn’t to say that “Breaker” isn’t top-notch: aggressive without being pushy, and all over the place without being ‘all over the place’. The first half of Thieves delivers one powerful noise-rock number after another. The quiet-loud “Get Off” has real force in its loud parts, to go along with really nice quiet sections. “Who Rize Above” is the driving Dragons of Zynth anthem, its pressing impact heightened by a great ‘sax attack’. And “Take It To Ride” is funkier with its push, thanks to its beat.
The slower, softer Dragons come out on the backside of Thieves, and while not quite as impressive as their harder half, the band still delivers as they stretch their sound wider and wider. Top of the heap is “Anna Mae”, thanks to its epic nature, fuzzy, distorted expanse, and a fine use of melody not seen up to that point. While both “Funky Genius” and closer “Closer” add a slow jazz feel to this approach well, the former throws in a Def Poetry Jam-like attitude that can feel a little pretentious at times. The restrained, ‘voices in an empty room’ “Rockin Star” is a bit too stripped-down; better done is the following “Labor Day Lung”, thanks to its beat and harmony.
In the lily-white, ‘everything in its place’ world of indie-rock, it was natural that the Dragons of Zynth would be categorized next to TV On the Radio. But if there’s any truth to this linkage beyond the superficial, it’s that both bands are similar in the way they both reject categorization. With a driving, funky soul underlying some powerful, techno-rock effects, Coronation Thieves makes an honest land out Here Be Dragons.