To give you a perfect example of how heavily populated the whole stoner rock/psychedelic/doom scene is, in which the best bands are pulling from not only the expansive description of this musical community, but also from jazz/classical roots, I was only introduced to Dreadnought earlier this month, when I saw them live for the first time.
Words: Sunil Singh
Dreadnought, hailing from Denver, Colorado, has been around for a decade. Yup, I pulled half a Rip Van Winkle on this band and am now playing severe catch-up! But, as already mentioned, this gives you some idea of how wonderfully healthy and vibrant this music genre has become, starting its fourth decade of existence. It’s such a massive world, and you cannot find all the musical diamonds on your own.
The Endless is the band’s fifth album, and the gorgeous artwork accompanying it foreshadows the musical story of the six songs that appear. Too often, the music falls short of the wild ambitions of the visual art. Not with Dreadnought. The music lives up to the dreamy fantasy turbulence that graces the album cover. Dreamy turbulence? Sounds like a subgenre for the future, with Dreadnought leading the charge.
Opening with Worlds Break, the airy and angelic vocals of Kelly Schilling and Lauren Viera christen the album. The mood of dark romanticism is perfectly set. Then about 90 seconds into the song, galloping instrumentals come in, making it feel like you are riding wildly and confidently on a white horse with some urgency.
The soaring vocals are still there, adding to the tension. And then that foreboding urgency comes – that indeed worlds are breaking – in the form of intense growls with no uncertain ferocity. The contrast between the light opening and the harsh musical encounter is the duel that frames the entire album. The song comes back with the softness of those opening vocals, which sound eerily close to the beautiful Anneke Van Giersbergen. The song ends with a tension that there is so much more up ahead.
Midnight Moon has an almost Goldfrapp opening with the smokey vocals. But the “Exorcist” vocals of Schilling arrive earlier in this song. I am only ten minutes in, but the way Dreadnought goes about doing business feels like the soundtrack to fighting the final boss in some densely curated Japanese RPG game. The ebbs and flows are not only enjoyable but suspenseful as well. While the extreme vocal changes are evident again on this track, the majority of the song occupies a middle ground of edge. You really begin to appreciate all the nuances of sound that are put in to keep the musical journey balanced. The song ends quietly but with a tone of mystery–like where are we?
The title track, The Endless, the shortest song somewhat ironically, continues the haunting vocals of the previous two songs, but a lounge/jazz tinge here makes the song feel more intimate. More glimpses of the lightness and stability the album seems to be fighting are contained here. But, an ominous shift in the song soon comes, along with the pained vocals. The battle, in this song at least, is brief. Yet, as the song title correctly suggests, humans are just in a constant loop of good and evil.
The initial seconds of Liminal Veil sound very close to High On Fire’s To Cross The Bridge. The vocals on this song are different, higher-pitched. The instrumental, which proceeds them, feels like moving with some trepidation, maybe even uncertain about what to do or where to go. As the whole album is passing its halfway point, the vocal performances are the wildest, almost fighting for space. The song just cascades all over the place, ending with a psychedelic frenzy. It is such an addictive song you are tempted to break the album flow to listen to it again. Try not to give in, as I did.
The band’s exhaustion with human choices and human suffering comes to a head on Gears Of Violent Endurance. The song reverses the vocal trend of the album thus far, with the harsh/angry one leading the song and then being tempered by the softer ones.
But, no mistake, this song carries the weight of historical violence. What I love about this song is the first time the vocals take on a folk/medieval feel. There is also this light, drifting keyboard element which tries to offset the brutality that first came in. The confidence and talent of the band is definitely blossoming at this point of the album. The unvarnished truth of human destruction is told, but the hopeful conclusion is made with understated conviction.
While gears of violence endure the ages, I will win.
We arrive at the end of the album with Paradigm Mirror. In terms of the album cover, I think the person in the foreground has made their way to the light at the back. The song feels like this reflective pond awaits us, perhaps aiding us on this “endless” journey. While the song is the most consistent in tempo on the album, we do arrive a bit exhausted and overwhelmed. However, the song shimmers with hope. We feel a rejuvenation, a purpose to continue.
And, just like that, it ends. The complex, haunting, and beautiful worlds of Dreadnought leave us only to want more and more of it.
The Endless is another album that should be at the top of everyone’s list in 2022.