Creating a narrative or theme within an album has always been something that has been highly intriguing to me. The thought that goes behind picking an element to base an entire album around is a process that fills me with so much wonder and curiosity. A series of songs can be based around an emotion, object, or all around obsession that the band or singer has at any given moment. As we are all humans with varying interests, the way we create art and interpret a certain topic is always going to be a little bit different. When you name your album something like Dungeon Crawlers, as Minneapolis/St.Paul band, Floodwater Angel did, you are allowing your audience to assume two things: 1. That your band is made up of people who enjoy the pastime of playing tabletop RPG’s and 2. That the album you have just created is going to be an album that takes inspiration from many different elements of musical genres, and aims to create a vast world for your listener. While I can’t for sure confirm that members of Floodwater Angel are fans of the adventure that surrounds the tabletop RPG world, I can assure you that if you are looking for an album that will have you turning your head in varied directions through it’s runtime, you might just want to give this record a chance.
Creating a cohesive album is a challenge, especially when your album contains as many twists and turns as Dungeon Crawlers has. Each track has its own feeling throughout the album, the band traverses through this metaphorical dungeon of sound, creeping along from door to door, making the listener unsure what lays behind the next door that’s awaiting to be open, the next track. Floodwater Angel does a good job not only keeping the listener engaged, but also keeping the listener guessing. There are so many three track runs that are expansive and surprising, but the three track run that I think is the most worthy of truly showcasing the genius of what the band attempts to do throughout Dungeon Crawlers are tracks 6-8. This run begins with the heartfelt, emotional and nostalgic sounding ‘Because of Winn Dixie,’ a slow folk-tinged love ballad with simple instrumentation, light drumming, smooth acoustic guitar, and a soulful vocal performance, making this track one of the things I expected the least from a band I associate more with chaotic Psychedelic tinged Punk tunes than I do heartfelt folk numbers. How does a band follow up a track that has as much emotional power as ‘Because of Winn Dixie?’ The only logical answer is, of course, a 7 minute scorcher of a psychedelic surf rock track entitled ‘Woolly Mammoth.’ This track feels stripped from a forgotten sci-fi concept album put out by a couple of Californian teens in the 70’s with its post apocalyptic feeling, heavy-hitting guitar groves and ambitious performances by everyone involved in the track. Keeping an audience engaged for a song that is 7 minutes long is no easy feat, and that’s why ‘Wooly Mammoth’ is one of the highlights of the year so far, and an example of a band just going for something that is difficult to achieve, and doing with great success at the same time. After the adrenaline rush that was track 7, we need something to bring us back to earth, and that’s where ‘Roll Credits’ comes in. Continuing with very spacious and atmospheric sounds, the band gets a little dreamier with their tone on this reflective track. Highlights on this track include the underlying synth tone that carries the song into a smoky, spacey guitar solo. The varied sound throughout Dungeon Crawlers will leave audiences' minds shattered throughout the 42 minute runtime of Floodwater Angel’s third album.
Lyrically, Dungeon Crawlers isn’t exactly an album about knights, mages, and mythical creatures. Although medieval imagery does pop up, most noticeably throughout the interlude tracks the band scatters throughout the album, the band seems to be tackling the topic of media consumption and the dangers that arise from having entertainment at our fingertips. ‘Doom Scroller’ is a track about knowing that you have important things to do, but feel the looming anxiety of life creeping up on you and reaching for your phone as comfort, as your vice for not doing anything for the next couple of hours. ‘Dread Emperor’ contains lyricism that points out the predatory behaviors of large media companies creating consumers out of children at a young age and leading them to believe that the only thing that is worth chasing is fame and notoriety with their hard hitting lyrics:
‘Disney baby, got your money, selling toys on cable tv
Disney baby, took your money, off to LA, just turned eighteen
Disney baby, fresh teen body, paraded round, cocktail parties
Disney baby, TikTok queen, now a billboard brand machine’
The aforementioned ‘Woolly Mammoth also has lyricism leading towards the warnings of consuming media with a couple of hard hitting lyrics throughout the trippy track including:
‘Scrolling through the screams again
You’ve yet to hear a voice
Avarice hands rejoice’
And, at the very end of the track, with:
‘Still my heart, it beats
Seaman on the screen
The wax turns black, oh
Mia Goth, My fantasy’
These tracks paint a picture for the listener and make them consider their own habits, making them feel a looming sense of unease while enjoying these tracks. On the surface these feel just like psychedelic tunes, awaiting consumption by a listener, but, as with any great work of art, the deeper you look at it, the more thought provoking and dire the message feels.
The term ‘musical mixed bag’ is a quality that a lot of my favorite albums possess. As a listener, I love to be on the edge of my seat, waiting and anticipating what is next for me around the corner, and Dungeon Crawlers is an album that gives me that exact feeling. The problem when a band reaches ‘musical mixed bag’ territory, however, is when a band attempts to do too much, making too many musical twists and turns throughout the album, leaving the listener with whiplash after listening to the record. Balance and cohesion within unpredictability is something that not many bands can achieve, because on the surface level, they are polar opposites. I can safely say, however, that Floodwater Angel are indeed one of those rare bands that do it with such ease. After listening to Dungeon Crawlers, there is no doubt in my mind that Floodwater Angel is one of the most unpredictable, talented, and most cohesive bands to watch, and in my mind this group of creatives could tackle any style of music, and any concept with ease.
Favorite Tracks: Woolly Mammoth, Because of Winn Dixie
Listen to 'Woolly Mammoth' below, from Floodwater Angel's latest album, Dungeon Crawlers: