Dreadnaught have been a constant presence in the Australian heavy music scene for 25 years and have never strayed from a path of their own choosing. Self-assured and armed with 8 wonderfully crafted songs, this is a welcome return from a criminally overlooked Australian metal institution.

Metal For The Brain festival was near all death metal back in 1997 when they replaced Superheist (who were a grindcore band at the time) on the bill. Then as now, Dreadnaught contained the same core bedrock elements that shine through on their fourth album today.

My impression of the band has always been that they are a near perfect marriage of sophisticated musicality – spearheaded by master guitarist Ritchie Poate – and the considered intelligence of Greg Trull’s lyrics and his dynamic melodic vocal delivery. Evidence of both of these fine musicians abilities is littered throughout Caught The Vultures Sleeping. They are aided and abetted by a killer rhythm section comprised of Damon Alcock (guitars), Marty O’Shea (drums) and Andy McDougall (bass).

Dreadnaught have always plied a trade based primarily on songcraft and dynamics. They are able to unleash if they feel the need as demonstrated on Clenched Fist, or they can use restraint and space and melody to build up impactful sonic layers as on the title track.

The constant through the whole record is that Poate is still one of the country’s best lyrical shredders in terms solo construction. Every song features a fine sample of his licks without over staying their welcome and this playing serves the dark narratives that run through Trull’s thoughtful lyrics in each of the tracks.

The production is modern, crisp and nicely balanced. All the parts are clearly discernible and tonally compliment one another. Alcock’s middly rhythm tone with McDougall’s bass underpinning it give Poate’s sharper leads and melody lines the room they need to give the most impact, without overwhelming either the driving drums or inflection Trull chooses to apply to the line he’s singing.

Welcome to Oblivion is a good example of these elements working together, with the light and shade that typify the Dreadnaught sound; also it is a masterclass in using tempo, space and time changes to bring the most out of a song. The band are touring extensively for this record and it’s going to be interesting to check them live to see how this new material translates to the live arena. If you’ve not caught them already, I can assure you they have never been anything other than a formidable force and Caught The Vultures Sleeping is a bloody good excuse to get out of the house and discover or rediscover one of Australia’s hidden gems.

Black belt musicianship, interesting lyrics written by someone with something to say and the lungs to back up his words. What’s not to like?

Caught the Vultures Sleeping is out now.