Album Review: Dreadnought – Emergence

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Band: Dreadnought | Album: Emergence | Genre: Progressive metal, Doom metal | Year: 2019

From: Denver, USA | Label: Profound Lore Records

For fans of: Tool, Cormorant, Panopticon

Buy: Bandcamp| Amazon | Apple Music

Like any metal subgenre, doom metal has an abundance of sub-subgenres, including stoner-doom, death-doom, and funeral doom. Prog-doom, to my disappointment, is one of the less-proliferated of these, even when put in the context of progressive metal. Other prog varietals—like black, sludge, and death—far outstrip progressive doom in both volume and prominence. Of the rather small cohort of bands who do fuse the murky, morose field of doom with the artistry and ambition of prog, Dreadnought are at the forefront.

Emergence is the fourth full-length release from this Colorado quartet, and it’s a logical progression from their last release, 2017’s A Wake in Sacred Waves. AWISW was among my favorite albums from that year, so this was a highly, highly anticipated release for me. I’m pleased to say it lived up to my hopes and exceeded my expectations. The sound on this album is massive—far more imposing than would be expected of four musicians. The guitar attacks in thick walls of guttural distortion, while the piano thunders and adds a certain weightiness rarely heard in metal.

“Besieged” sets the tone without hesitation. The verses feature gentle, almost pastoral vocals and piano set against growling, churning guitars. This contrast of delicate and harsh is a cornerstone of Dreadnought’s sound, but it’s not the sole component.  Vocalist Kelly Schilling can let loose with shrieks to rival the best during the heaviest moments, and there is no shortage of clean, jazzy and folky interludes. “Still”, the second track, is one such interlude, which features an ominous atmosphere augmented by flute (provided by Schilling) and saxophone (played by drummer Jordan Clancy). Such a short song doesn’t try to do too much, but it fits into the flow of everything, building tension and cultivating a menacing aura.

Following that interlude, “Pestilent” opens with pummeling drums and more enveloping guitar. Harmonized vocals add a hint of folk influence, while an aqueous synthesizer fleshes out the overall sound. Flute and sax emerge once more in a calmer moment, and the flute line imparts an Indian feel in its melody. The song’s middle is calmer: the tempo is slower, and distortion is minimized for a spell. The tail end of “Pestilent” shows just how effective piano can be in a metal setting. In most metal bands, the instrument seems to largely be relegated to saccharine ballads; but in Dreadnought, keyboardist Lauren Vieira uses the instrument’s bass register to add another layer of percussive impact.

Emergence ends on its most dynamic track. Fittingly, “The Waking Realm” opens calmly, as if first rousing from sleep. Lush guitar and synth are complemented by the occasional flash of saxophone as an insistent bassline keeps the music from aimlessly floating. When the drums eventually come in, it’s a skittering, jazzy pattern that feels urgent but restrained. It’s not until the halfway point that distortion arrives and this becomes a metal song. Even then, it’s not some sudden cliff-edge of intensity, but a gradual, gliding ascent. This song continues to build, with the occasional contrastive ebb: rolling inevitably forward, growing into a crushing, distorted frenzy.

Dreadnought released their best album yet with Emergence. It takes all the strengths of their previous releases and matures and focuses them, resulting in a lean, powerful, impactful, emotive release that brims with the intensity of doom metal and the ambition of prog.

Score: 96/100

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