Dreadnought – The Endless
I discovered Dreadnought with their previous record, “Emergence” and was quite instantly hooked and very surprised by their genre-defying creativity and authenticity. And now, three years later, I still struggle to understand what it is exactly that this band is doing. However, their recently released 5th studio record, “The Endless” comes as another proof that an attempt to understand this glorious mystery is not only futile, but also useless, because regardless of what label you slap on top of their artistry, it’s still them, and they’re still awesome!
Dreadnought’s music draws influence from many metal subgenres, of which I would mention black and doom as well as progressive metal, but also other musical realms among which the band lists folk, classical and jazz. And honestly, when focusing on it, I can hear a bit of all of them. But it’s never singled out. Every genre they tackle plays itself out as a piece in a far more complex ensemble of sound magic that is theirs alone, free of any creative limitation and aimed to accurately express their strange, psychological and philosophical abstract journeys, among which this album is no different.
Before diving into the specifics of performance and composition, I want to take a look at this album as a whole. Although it is split in 6 tracks, each with its own identity, it is clearly a cohesive piece as a whole, and to me it feels like an abstract theater play where the actual story is never truly revealed. We see a sense of evolution through the songs, almost like a journey through different stages, confronting various emotions and struggles. I for one, can sink into the album and live through it, as if I was the protagonist of its story. But every hint, vibration and piece of imagery described lyrically, stays a mystery, or it may be seen as an invitation for the listener to draw whatever meaning comes to them. There sure is no spoon-feeding here. And I would say that, as a result of clever and compelling songwriting mixed with abstract concepts, it might be one of the most thought-provoking albums I’ve listened to in a while.
Dreadnought – Midnight Moon
But let’s look at the building-blocks of making such a complex piece of art. Well, unlike any rock or metal album, the riffs here are not the driving force, the drums are not the foundation and the vocals are not soaring at the top. Instead, all instruments seem to be playing equal parts in background or in the forefront, changing roles throughout the songs and allowing the music to constantly and fluidly change its face and character. As I pleasantly remember from their previous record, the drum performance is stellar. It’s loaded with progressive patterns, extremely groovy and unpredictable, and despite the impressive technicality, somewhat chill. Drummer Jordan Clancy is one of those drummers who can give soul to the instrument, rather than just rhythm, and I would say more than half of his details, transitions and intricacies, have an expressive role, more so than a foundational role for the music. While he often sets the pace and energy of the song, his playing merges into the parts of the other instruments interactively, and is quite frequently allowed to lose track of any main pattern as the foundation of the song moves somewhere else. Especially in the most atmospheric sections like the last song on the album, ‘The Paradigm Mirror’, his playing rather gives a ritualistic feel to the song, while it feels like the vocals are actually the main driving force.
On guitars and bass, there’s quite an amoeba of sounds going on. Merging highly overdriven riffage, complex and often dissonant clean guitar parts, and a very fluid, jazzy bass line, guitarist Kelly Schilling and bassist Kevin Handlon make their instruments easily become one, in a smooth and constantly shifting interaction. The piano parts often join in the game, but the more striking sound of the piano still distinguishes it and makes it stand out more like a singular entity. The sound cocktail is more smoothly blended together when the keyboards play the background resonance, as can most clearly be heard on ‘Liminal Veil’, the longest and probably strangest song on the record. Since the riff parts have a strong black metal edge, with a dirty and not very sharp sound, the keyboard and bass often get merged into that sound, even when playing clearly differentiated patterns. So the band does a great job at coming together as a whole and letting each instrument shine individually at the same time. And I would say the slightly dirty and echoing sound given by the odd mixing and mastering approach is at the core of that phenomenon taking place. When everything is brought together, there’s no telling whether there will be complex riffage, noodly clean notes or vibrant atmospheres that hit you next, nor what emotion they will be carrying, so the music stays constantly refreshing and engaging.
Dreadnought – Gears of Violent Endurance
And on top of that professional, technical, yet blurry instruments soup, comes an equally impressive and blurry voices soup, as guitarist Kelly Schillling and keyboardist Lauren Vieira, both lend their voices to tell this ambiguous yet beautiful story. While I can’t really distinguish who’s who, I don’t really need to, because it feels like there are more than 2 voices anyway. There’s an incredible approach to vocal layering that makes you feel like you’re hearing multiple voices floating around you. The clean vocals are quite high and often go in falsetto, sounding very light and effortless, almost ghostly at times. They give a soothing and sleepy tendency, but despite that it’s not entirely relaxing because there’s always some tension in the vocal performance, some ominous sense of pain or fear. We also see the clean vocals bring in a bit more power and switch to a more nasal tone from time to time. I would again name ‘Liminal Veil’ as the best example. Then the screams feel like they’re pulled straight out of a black-metal inspired horror movie, high-pitched, shrieky and sinister, and probably the darkest aspect of this album.
As a whole, “The Endless” can best be defined as compelling, hypnotic and cathartic. I never really know what happens to me emotionally and I don’t really want to either. I just like it. It’s strange, sinister and otherworldly, with an undertone of mystery but also peace, and in many ways, it feels like a struggle. The closing song, ‘The Paradigm Mirror’, brings most of the peaceful atmosphere, as if the dust settles after a storm. It’s shimmery, light and calming, and it feels like you can finally let go, and take a rest. While the bulk of the album is quite dark and tense, the ending is clear and the aftertaste peaceful, and that’s where everything seems to be coming together. So if you too are a fan of complex ambiguous sonic phenomena that make no sense but are weirdly relatable, and that are just awesome for no reason whatsoever, then I strongly urge you to check out Dreadnought’s latest album, “The Endless”.
- Worlds Break (08:28)
- Midnight Moon (06:42)
- The Endless (04:39)
- Liminal Veil (09:07)
- Gears of Violent Endurance (06:09)
- The Paradigm Mirror (06:01)