Album Review: Wills Dissolve – Echoes

Band: Wills Dissolve | Album: Echoes | Genre: Death metal, Progressive metal, Progressive rock | Year: 2020

From: Houston, USA | Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records

For fans of: Opeth, Isis, Enslaved

Bandcamp

Album-long songs have a rich tradition in progressive metal. Edge of Sanity’s 1996 album Crimson is the best-known of these, but Inter Arma, Meshuggah, and others have dabbled in this format. And that’s not even touching on the countless albums where the individual tracks flow together. And while any band can put a 30-plus-minute track to record, it takes another level of skill to make it consistently good. A good album-long song needs to make sense as one song, as opposed to feeling like a handful of short songs smooshed together.

Echoes—the second release from Houston-based quartet Wills Dissolve—consists of solely the 32-minute title track. The swirling, psychedelic black hole cover art is fitting for this record. The music is huge and intergalactic, yet immensely heavy and crushing.

Ominous synth drone and staticky radio transmissions set the scene in the first two minutes. A clean syncopated guitar line slowly builds as bass and light percussion join in. It gives a feeling of ascending to some astral realm. Things remain airy, but there’s a sense of impending doom permeating this passage.

Sludgy waves of death-doom metal burst out suddenly, and deep, guttural growls contrast against cleanly-sung passages. As if bursting through a sudden barrier, the music slows down and incorporates acoustic instruments. An optimistic-sounding guitar line that feels right out of Liquid Tension Experiment takes the lead, and the bassist gets in plenty of inventive licks and fills. There’s another rapid oscillation back to death metal (this time accented with Cynic-style vocoded vocals), but the transitions on Echoes never feel jarring or disjointed.

Wills Dissolve incorporate inventive, unusual timbres and textures with both their guitars and vocals. Everything operates in degrees of distortion: guitars can be acoustic, clean electric, or evil-sounding; and vocals similarly are sung cleanly, growled, or put through a synthesizer. The band experiments with layering these sounds, to great success.

As the song progresses, the slower, more plodding death-doom of early on gives way to a furious tempest of blackened death metal, though doom metal tinges remain. Gentle reprieves are smartly dispersed, so as to avoid overloading the listener with a never-ending torrent of musical brutality.

The album’s closing minutes combine thick walls of distortion with majestic clean vocals and another impressive solo. Echoes draws to a close on a calmer, more somber note from the preceding pummeling, but it fits beautifully.

Echoes is a tour-de-force of progressive death metal. The cosmic interludes help both to add gravity to the heavier moments, as well as act as palette cleansers, to keep everything fresh. Though not a long album, this one behemoth song flies by in what feels like under 10 minutes.

Score: 91/100

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