Dub Apocalypse has, for the past few years, taken the northeast underground reggae scene by storm, playing numerous shows at small clubs and bars, opening for bigger acts, and basically laying low while hitting high. The band began as a rotating cast of characters, always with Tommy Benedetti (of John Brown’s Body fame) on the drumkit. Johnny Trama on guitar, and Timo Shanko on bass and sax. For Frozen Planet (self-released, 2018) the album features the more solidified touring group, including, Aaron Bellamy (bass) and Van Gordon Martin (guitar). While “dub” appears in their name, DA is really more of an instrumental reggae band- with a few dubby moments. Frozen Planet‘s biggest achievement is song structure, a mix of freeform-sounding jams and controlled movements.
Because of the large quantities of what I’ll call “big city sax”, much of these songs come off jazzy, both in flow and feel, especially “Goes Around Comes Around”, a pitching, swinging upbeat tune stuffed with sax twittering. Even here, though, the roots reggae sound rides cool and easy, and the best part of Dub Apocalypse is the respect to the groove, with enough musical twists and turns that these wordless tracks don’t get boring.
“Angel Blood” carries the heaviest dub vibe, twin bass and guitar lines part funk and part rock. The horns, also twin, weave in and out like cascading water. The song also collapses and rebuilds throughout in this kind of cosmic, meditative dub that’s my favorite because it continuously leans into itself, a groove so repetitive but not stifled that it could go on forever. “Sunstroke” is nearly as dubbed out, and “Answer Dancer” crosses a similar sound with more surfer vibes.
Two songs stand above the rest:“Burning the Colosseum” fires from the getgo; ferociously tearing through solos, the drums notably punctuated. at each one drop. The song’s makeup shows how talented and wise these musicians are, yet the sound remains holy roots oriented. Conversely, “Moving On” is ethereal, vibrant, and rises like a hot air balloon.
I might be biased, being longtime fans of Van Gordon Martin and Tommy Benedetti, but the musicianship here is undeniable. Fans of dub and instrumental reggae will love Frozen Planet. For those who don’t like sax, this may not be the album for you. Overall, though, this little gem should not be overlooked.