Some days you just need a little grace and beauty in your music, even when you usually like it rough on the eardrums. If you’re searching for some amazingly powerful yet somehow mellow metal that will sweep you away, look no farther than Dreadnought’s latest album. Emergence is a stunning soundscape of many instruments and sounds, carefully balanced: crashing drums; riffing guitars and bass; delicate piano, violin, synth, saxophone and flute; and haunting vocals on both the clean and the harsh end of the spectrum. But while the sounds aren’t slow, the pacing involves careful buildups and long, long songs. Like a feast, this album takes its times as it satiates your need for glorious music.
Who are Dreadnought, how did you find them?
I first stumbled upon Dreadnought (from Denver, NOT Australia) via chain recommendations in Google music. The best part is simply that I’d been looking for female-led prog groups with both a heavier sound and emotional music, and lo and behold! They arrived. Some albums require multiple listens but I found their second and third albums, Bridging Realms and A Wake in Sacred Waves, to be immediately interesting! These are albums that escape the constant complex riffing and technical variation of many of my favorite progressive metal bands without losing the complexity and subtlety that make for amazing music. It’s a fine line to walk and they succeed brilliantly. I needed to know more, so to the internet I headed. After poking around online I discovered that they’d recently released a new album: Emergence. I had to try and oh so happily found it was just as hypnotic and beautiful as the previous two.
Right from their Bandcamp page:
For their fourth full-length album “Emergence”, Denver, Colorado doom-prog band DREADNOUGHT follow-up their 2017 “A Wake In Sacred Waves” acclamation with an album that takes their singular multiplex and pictorial sound to new sonic realms even more heavily textile, complex, and vastly designed. “Emergence” sees the four-piece, consisting of vocalist/guitarist/flute player Kelly Schilling, drummer/sax player Jordan Clancy, keyboardist/vocalist Lauren Vieira, and bassist/mandolin player Kevin Handlon, delving more into heavier and darker sonic territory as well, an aspect that was evident with “A Wake…” but has become fully realized with “Emergence”.Find their full description here. Lots of talent in a small group!
Emergence is both heavy (heavier than A Wake, certainly) and darkly ambient, a heady mix of glory and despair with poetic lyrics and an emotional delivery still often missed by bands. The songs and their sections are long yet intensely textural, with ethereal vocals and classic elements adding a sense of grandeur and delicacy over harsh, gritty metal instrumentation; the occasional harsh growls and shrieks cut poignantly without disrupting the dreamy flow or tension of the music. No single instrument or voice ever fully takes over, so catching the nuance of any specific piece is a work of patience and concentration. It’s worth several good listening sessions to unravel the layering alone. The subtle balance here is one thing I personally found very, very attractive.
Tracks and Details
Besieged, the first song opens with a strangely punk/grunge sound, with a single fast-picked note run through some reverb and distortion that gives everything a dirty, raw feel (something you’ll hear a lot on this album). As prominent drums and the secondary guitar swell in, the sound quickly leaves punk behind to move into something darker, though equally distorted and tactile. The bass and vocals follow suit, with a small crescendo building as the gentle singing segues to shrieks. There’s a simple pattern of long buildups with classical instrumentation, followed by shrieking vocals and chaotic guitars and drum. It’s a good track to build up the overall feel and idea of the album.
Note: Simple may be a deceptive word with this album. The music is oddly subtle and powerful.
Still is the second and shortest song at only 3:24, and it’s relatively slow and lighter than Besieged. The violins and occasional saxophone against a backdrop of sonic fuzz keep the slow, dirge-like pacing from feeling dead. This feels like a song of deep mourning and rebirth, and it’s a good break from the more aggressive mood of the rest of the album. Again, the soaring, ethereal vocals are the perfect compliment to the dark tone of the instrumentation.
Pestilence comes in relatively aggressive sound-wise. The increased tempo and return to hard guitar, drum and bass with clean vocals faded into the background infuse this song with exactly the kind of contrast that keeps me hooked. While Besieged felt like a tumble in ocean waves, Pestilence is like being thrown into a storm-tossed sea, only to eventually sink below the surface into a dark and strange world. Flute and sax bring otherworldly overtones, while the heavily distorted guitar and harsh vocals provide chaos, fear and rage. The outro is poignant and deeply sad, nearly hopeless. Yet even with the less-than-optimistic tone, the music retains beauty.
No one posted a video of Pestilence yet, just go listen on their Bandcamp page!
Tempered also starts out pretty aggressive; the single-note-guitar and even, constant drums brought to mind the determined march of an army. Piano and vocals again add a very delicate, human element and some fantastic 70s-style-synth give it a different sound than previous songs. This is one of my favorites. The touch of djent is just right, and the bass comes through perfectly.
The Waking Realm’s heavily-muted bass and muffled sound overall truly give an insomniac vibe to the last track’s beginning. The eventually mounting energy from a muted kick-drum and the swelling lyrics, creating a slow heart-beat, bring this piece back to life. Again, guitar and drums drive a slow cycle of sound and plucked piano keys add fragility over the still-haunting voice. Midway, the track intensifies in both volume and aggression again, yet the piano and Kelly’s glorious voice soar over, adding an indefinable power. Follow the pattern one more time even more intensely for a fully-satisfying finish.
So, It’s good?
Yes, its very good. This is an album I’m slowly spreading out to friends and family and random internet strangers. It may not gain much following with the technical-prog end of the spectrum but it’s still amazing and well-done music. No one album will be to everyone’s taste. I can’t stand modern country and that’s an entire genre!
I’d personally love to hear them do some cleaner, more technical pieces just to hear each instrument and person distinctly for a bit. There’s bound to be a lot of individual talent that doesn’t come through on a soundscape! But I wouldn’t change anything in this album; I love it. It’s going to be on my playlist for a long, long time and there’s nothing anyone can say to change my mind. Thank you, Dreadnought, for giving me a spiritual and musical haven for my less-power-tech-prog days!