Colorado quartet DREADNOUGHT return with their fifth full-length offering The Endless, continuing their eclectic artistic journey of painting on a dark progressive metal canvas with colours from the palettes of jazz and classical, all the way to black metal, and everything in between.
The intro of Worlds Break introduces straight away the atmosphere that will pervade the record – ethereal, mystic, unfolding slowly and considerately. The dual vocals of guitarist Kelly Schilling and keyboardist Lauren Vieira stack upon each other with layered harmonies, with some vocalisations even impersonating instruments to accentuate the harmonic movement of the music. The slow build up comes to an explosion when the black and doom metal influences come to the fore, switching from a high clean voice soprano to blood curdling shrieks. The almost nine-minute composition showcases DREADNOUGHT at their most cohesive and dynamic. It is an engaging start, and the album’s high watermark.
Next up, Midnight Moon introduces the 5/4 rhythm that will pop up frequently throughout the album, and continues in the spirit of experimentation – this time incorporating an electro-tribal breakdown with a similar energy to the soundtracks to the old Soul Reaver games, and an outro that echoes the best of the melancholic doom-death of early ANATHEMA. Following it, title track The Endless feels like an additional section of the same song, spending much of its runtime in the same tempo and time signature until a crushing breakdown and witch-like wails provide its climax.
The American quartet are very capable performers without resorting to flashiness. The most important textural ingredient are Vieira’s keyboards whose background colour is felt as much as it is heard, alongside some dramatic lead sections. Another highlight is the playing of drummer Jordan Clancy whose drum parts propel the songs forward with a keen sense of musicality and a hint of jazz in his approach. With much going on instrumentally and texturally, there is a danger that some detail can be lost. Unfortunately, a slightly murky mix does not help here, with some of the instruments coming in a bit thin in the louder sections, and a bass that ebbs in and out of clarity in the low end.
The layered approach makes The Endless a slow burner and demands attention over its 40-minute runtime. It is prone to fade away in the background at first and occasionally seem monotonous, but repeated listens can peel back more and more layers. As such, it works more as a cycle of atmospheric dark prog soundscapes than a typical collection of unrelated songs. Nowhere is this more apparent than on closer The Paradigm Mirror, an extended ambient conclusion to the record that feels like an epilogue to a book. This quieter long goodbye deflates a bit of the album’s energy, and whilst it is undoubtedly beautiful, it could have worked better as a calm before the storm ahead of a grander finale.
With The Endless, DREADNOUGHT have created a thoughtful progressive record carrying their own imprint, and one that hints at holding many secrets beneath the surface. They demand the listener to spend serious time with it, but lovers of metal with a progressive ethos and a wide spectrum of influences will find lots to make it worth their while.
The Endless is out now via Profound Lore Records.
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