Dreadnought-The Endless Review

Ever since my introduction to Denver’s dreadnought in 2015 with the excellent Bridging realms, I’ve had a vested interest in their development. They’re an endlessly intriguing band, if not always an engaging one; I had a distinctly dispassionate response to 2019’s emergencies despite its characteristic variety and knotty, intricate compositions. Not least in this interest is what I perceive as a disconnect between the word “dreadnought,” and the band dreadnought. The former conjures industrial energy, whereas the latter conjures natural energy. 2022 sees a return on their fifth full-length entitled The Endless and I want to know if this duality continues.

Briefly summarizing dreadnought‘s music is impossible. You could clip a 5-minute passage from anywhere on The Endless and encounter something different from any other 5-minute passage. But, in short, the key ingredients include progressive, post and black metal, and also jazz. Occasionally shimmering guitars, looped rhythms and a dense, textured approach lean into post-genres, while the overall package is delivered through rangy, expansive songs which demonstrate progressive proclivities. The witchy roars and heavier, tremolo-picked guitars draw from black metal, while the crisp drumming and darting clean vocals have a jazzy feel. It’s to dreadnought‘s credit that the end product seamlessly coalesces its disparate influences, resulting in its not sounding like anything else. Releases like The Endless can sound messy but there’s no mess here.

Equally critical to the dreadnought sound is the careful layering and builds. I’ll begin with the opener called “Worlds Break” to illustrate this. Gentle guitars and effortless, clean singing set a delicate but atmospheric opening tone. This loops for a minute or two with gradual melodic development on these instruments, before a pretty piano transition introduces the rolling drums. The record’s first apex is reached with blackened heavy leads and harsh vocals. 5 minutes into the track things strip back once more, exposing plaintive singing, chimes and a fragile guitar melody. The continual construction and deconstruction lend a natural flow and sway to The Endless; there’s something quite organic and earthen about it. Even in the densest, heaviest moments, the music is never too far from lightness and whimsy. For example, the title track derives an ominous edge from its slower pace and moody layered guitars, but this is paired with “Liminal Veil” which deploys jangling guitars and backing synths to balance the former’s moodiness with something curious and ethereal.

If the previous descriptions were insufficiently clear, there’s a lot going on here. Breaking down the record into meaningful themes or an intention is difficult. dreadnought leverage a variety of stark and delicate colors in painting their canvas but after many listens I’m only beginning to understand what the overall painting depicts. The songs (and by extension, the album) feel like they traverse great distance but I don’t feel a distinct sense of progression from one place at the start to another at the end. “The Paradigm Mirror” closes The Endless with a deep breath, featuring a more cosmic feel with stronger synths and a plodding tempo. I like it but it’s symptomatic of the lack of payoffs across the record, which is surprising considering the length and scope of some of these tracks. And yet, the more time I’ve given to The Endless, the more rewarding and clearer it has become. It may lack big hooks or satisfying payoffs but this release illustrates to me the ebb and flow of an unexpected journey.

I initially struggled to engage with this music’s often-unhurried course, but it’s grown into a uniquely affecting listen for me. They say it’s the growers that are the keepers so I’m interested to see how I feel about The Endless with a few months under his belt. It may not be my favorite release of the year, it’s easily my favorite dreadnought release since Bridging realms and an assured step down the path of their discography. It isn’t an “easy” listening experience as it doesn’t target big hooks or memorable melodies but I admire their long-form, expansive, non-linear writing. Fans of all things progressive and post should find something to enjoy here.

rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps MP3
labels: Profound Lore Records
sites: dreadnought.bandcamp.com | www.dreadnoughtdenver.com | www.facebook.com/dreadnought
Releases worldwide: August 26th, 2022

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