Dresden – “Too Many Skeletons” (1986)

dresdenskeletonsNeedless to say it was the cover of Dresden’s sole release, 1986s Too Many Skeletons, that initially drew my attention.  It’s got a sort of Motörhead thing going on, but with garish reds, blues, and yellows.  The combination of images and words on the cover (bombers, eagle, “Dresden”, and “Too Many Skeletons”) make it pretty apparent that the band got its name and the concept for this album cover from the 1945 firebombing of Dresden, part of the so-called “strategic bombing” campaign conducted by the Allies in World War II, the morality of which has been questioned by historians and ethicists for decades.

Over the course of three days in February 1945 a total of 1,249 American and British heavy bombers dropped 7.8 million pounds of bombs on the city of Dresden.  Let that number sink in for a minute.  7.8 million pounds of explosives, falling from the sky, onto your city.  So much heat and fire was generated that a literal firestorm occurred which destroyed most of the city and killed 20-25,000 people.  The Dresden bombing may be the best known of these events, at least in Europe, because a young America prisoner of war named Kurt Vonnegut was being held in the city and after the bombing was over he and other POWs were directed to help gather the corpses.  He later, of course, became a world-renowned author, and his novel Slaughterhouse Five drew in part from his experiences in Dresden.  I know that’s a bit of a heavy history lesson, but most of us have seen so much of this kind of imagery that we fail to consider it in its historical, and more importantly human, context.

A number of writers at The Metal Archives have already tackled Too Many Skeletons and have done so far better than I can from a musical perspective, so you can check them out HERE if you’re interested.  I will say that the recording is flat and leans more towards the high end – the bass and drums get lost apart from perhaps the cymbals, which is too bad, because the drumming is pretty good.  And lest you think that Disturbed were the first metal-type band to take on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence”, well, you’d be wrong, because it’s the last song on the A side of Too Many Skeletons.  Dresden’s version alternates between slow and fast, a bit less cohesive than Disturbed’s, but also a bit less full of itself; it isn’t trying too hard to be artistic, just authentic.

The various reviews of Too Many Skeletons put it into the “cross-over” camp, in this case meaning the crossover from thrash to hardcore.  This makes sense to my ears, with Dresden reminding me a bit of Gang Green and Cro-Mags.  A little digging into the guys involved in Dresden further backs this us, as three of the five members were also part of the somewhat prolific hardcore outfit Lost Generation, and another was part of C.I.A.  So it appears Dresden was a more metal-leaning side project for these guys.  It’s a pretty good one (other than the production quality) – too bad they didn’t keep moving in the thrash direction.

You can check out the whole thing on YouTube: