Here’s the thing about writing reviews: it’s a constant act of parsing. What you’re trying to do when writing a review is to take something that has many elements which are either impossible to utter because of their elusive nature of just very, very hard to put into words because they’re so complex and subtle. Often times, the tools we have at our disposal (like genres, structures, post layouts and more) do a good enough job of letting us do just that and write a review. But sometimes it’s exceptionally hard. This usually happens when you’re dealing with ambitious albums, works of music which attempt to approach many issues at once or tackle one issues from multiple directions. If the music is also varied and composed of many parts then you’re in for even more of a challenge.
All of this was very much the case when approaching The Dark Third‘s Even As the Light Grows. It’s an exceptionally intricate album, comprised of the kind of mercurial progressive rock which reminds us of the recently mentioned on the blog Ghostbound and other acts like Anathema, Porcupine Tree and more. During its runtime, Even As the Light Grows focuses on a kind of dreamy melancholia that’s hard to parse, evoking both a sort of depression and a sense of wonder and introspective speculation. While doing so, it features guitars, bass, drums and vocals but also plenty of brass and string instruments. Beyond instrumentation, its themes are often gentle and expansive like post-rock but also contain blastbeats and harsher, more abrasive segments.
Perhaps the best place to start is the first track, which dominates the first thirteen and change minutes of the album. “The Dreams of Lesser Men” exhibits all of the ideas and methods described above. Its main line draws a lot of inspiration from post-rock. The guitars are dreamy and utilize fast paced picking at times to create the kind of gossamer that characterizes bands like Sleeping Bear or Mono. These are further shored up by the aforementioned strings and brass instruments, especially on the early passages of the track. Together with the somewhat despondent and melancholic vocals, these parts contribute the sense of frigid introspection that the album often evokes.
But as we near the three quarters mark of the track, something changes. First, we are treated to a more aggressive line of composition; the drums pick up pace, approaching blastbeating at short intervals. The strings intensify, as do the guitars, and everything seems to come to a head…only to crash back down into another introspective passage. This is a trademark movement of what’s called “dark progressive”, mostly influenced by Steven Wilson and the aforementioned Porcupine Tree. Anathema also utilized this structure, which basically builds up hype and then crashes it down into an even more morose passage before finally allowing the crescendo to hit and enjoy that much more catharsis for having been delayed.
Here, on “The Dreams of Lesser Men”, this crescendo is relatively short-lived and bracketed on both sides by mellow piano and guitars. On the rest of the album as well, The Dark Third lean more heavily on the melancholic and morose tricks of the trade, owning the “dark” in “dark progressive” and providing perhaps a bit less release than than usual. This also leads to one of the album’s only weak points. This is the fact that much of the album repeats on the same themes, constantly circling this darker take on an already dark genre. The end result is a powerful album which is hard both to get into and stick with, since it keeps pummeling you emotionally, all the while drawing on intricate musical ideas and different sounds. That’s also what made it hard to review but easy for me to love; if you’re a fan of dark, sad music as I am, you need to check this album out and give it the time it takes to grow on you.
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Even As the Light Grows is out August 19th. The band are releasing it independently, so go support them directly through their Bandcamp here!