Featuring former members of WHEN DREAMS DIE, "Cast Shadows on Dragons" by ROBOTS AND EMPIRE is a strange mixture of stoner rock heft and spacey doom that has its moments, but too often loses momentum because of its unevenness. Clearly rooted in BLACK SABBATH and bands such as THE MELVINS, as well as the occasional Rollins-era BLACK FLAG nuance, the album moves from fairly straightforward stoner metal riffs and fat bass tones to an extraterrestrial flow with melodic singing, the latter of which does not work very well.
On the stoner/doom side of the line, "Stampede" crawls along with the requisite down-tuned riffs and rubbery bass with semi-soulful, yet gritty, vocals, while "Hydroaxe" kicks it up a notch into mid-tempo territory, albeit with brief pace changes, and employs some gnarly soloing. Things get trippy when "Hammer Sledge" rolls around, its creepy guitar and sung vocals rather chilling, if not overly effective, before a grinding riff takes over. The changeups on the track work pretty well on this "out there" track. Heavy churn is the order of the day on "Mus Decumanus", one example of the FLAG hardcore aesthetic that lurks just beneath the surface. Along with "Car Chase", this particular batch of songs is decent stoner fare; it's just not that memorable, nor is a big enough impact made on the listener.
It is on the next few tracks — "Effect Depth", "Attack of the Firepants", and "Doomdroid" — during which there are sections that seem like the effect should be satisfying (rubber drone grooves, a far out aura, etc), yet end up just kind of "there." The use of TOOL-ish singing and melodic spookiness tries to work as unpredictable, perhaps unconventional (in the larger context of the disc) reroutes, but only sap the relative strength of the heavier, more traditional, aspects.
Plaudits for the band's efforts at not sticking with the tried and true aside, "Cast Shadows on Dragons" tended to sour me every time I began to get into the groove. It is not a bad disc, just one that is confusing in some spots and outright awkward in others.