We are truly fortunate. It has not even been two years and Denver based Dreadnought have decided to grace us, yet again, with an album. This writer is especially fortunate since your memories of my previous Dreadnought review should be fresh enough. Naturally, Emergence sits at what is currently the end of a chain, feeding off of the thematic and musical predecessors which make up the band’s discography. As such, it is a continuation of Dreadnought’s exploration of stoikheîon, the Greek concept of elements as the foundational building blocks of reality. However, as we mentioned the last time we associated Dreadnought’s writing with this idea, one shouldn’t expect traditional, Western associations with these elements. While Emergence is very clearly associated with the element of fire (going by its cover art), it is perhaps Dreadnought’s most somber work. The image conjured is of fire contained, of a morose and somber nature which conjures up the likeness of embers, of roiling heat beneath the surface, prone to careful build ups but always containing pent up energy.
These more contained intimations kick off right from the start, with “Besieged”. Things are already noticeably different from the band’s previous iteration, A Wake is Sacred Waves. The piano is more direct yet somehow diffuse, cutting through the rest of the instrumentation with a muffled cry. The bass has more rumble to it this time around, working with the lower end of the piano (especially on the excellent outro of the track). The vocals, at times, hang on the verge of murmuration, excellently contrasting with Kelly Schilling explosive screams. Everything is more contained then, tighter, not as chaotic and roiling as the previous album but also not as ethereal as Bridging Realms. Even when the second track, the chill inducing “Still” hits, with its elongated chords and heart-wrenching strings, the timbre is less of the vastness of stars and more of some internal, emotional plane, a flickering heart where flames whisper to themselves in expectations of violence and release to come.
That emotion, of contortion, of a dynamic of coiled energy and its release, runs through the entire album. Where previous iterations gave us a more overwhelming mixture of delicacy, silence, noise, heaviness, and aggression, Emergence moves at a more drawn out and measured pace. The comparison to fire is perhaps non-traditional yet still prevalent: one can imagine a bonfire sparking high on the heavier moments, only to consume its own fuel and die back down again to embers. But those embers are still there, lying in wait for their time to come, for a buildup back to their full height.
From the vibrant, touching lows of “Still” then comes the dextrous tongues of “Pestilent”‘s fire. The third track leans even more heavily on the prominent bass tone of the album, turning up the kick drums as well as both Schilling and Lauren Vieira paint melodies above the instrumentation with their voices. It’s hard to overstate how much the vocals on this album are different yet equally as effective as before; both voices sound more fragile in the mix, diminished almost, but this new position of retreat lends them a strange allure. The listener must strain to hear them at times and this forward-movement of intent draws us deeper into the music, especially when it too, is more somber and understated.
All of these ideas come to ultimate fruition on the pan-ultimate track of the album, “The Waking Realm”. Metaphor and flowery language aside, this is probably Dreadnought’s best track to date. It starts with an incredible combo of soft vocals, loud bass, synths and brass, drawing comparisons to acts like Toby Driver/Kayo Dot or Mamiffer in its warm-yet-strangely-cold murmurations. The bass parts are especially worthy of attention, their drawn out presentation, in collaboration with the eerie and excellent synths, creating an otherworldly realm of passion and deep introspection. When the deep drums hit, combined with shimmering cymbals, the canvas is set for one of Dreadnought’s most expressive and arresting compositions to date.
As fitting with the album’s structure, the build up towards the track proper takes its time; announcing Vieira’s vocals, the groove section picks up slightly, while the piano starts toying with slightly lighter and more frivolous temperaments. A sense of energy is injected into the tracks’ progress. Much further down the line, given its time to grow, this energy will turn into an explosive middle section which, yet again, harps on the lower end of the scale for its thumping aggression and tones, drums cutting beautifully through the thicker guitars. This passage is also given its time to grow, falling and rising alongside the vocals, dancing like a candle’s flame in the night, here and there. The vocals in turn fade and return once again, moving between more quiet passages and a more present, forceful position. Finally, right before the screams return, this energy is transformed into an outro that’s a catharsis not just for the track itself, the longest on the album, but for the entire musical endeavor which came before it. Baptized in the fire of intense blast-beats and seemingly unending riffs, the outro fuses all elements of the album into one, bringing everything together in the forge of a heavy, fast-moving, progressive segment.
And so, we stand here once again, at the end of a long review. Dreadnought have once again plunged the depths of their approach to music and come back with something new for us. Like all releases before it, Emergence is a beast of its own design but intimately and firstly Dreadnought. Their sound, in whatever permutation, is unmistakable. In this, its current, somber, sonorous, deep, rumbling iteration, it is more of a gut punch than on any previous release. It might lack A Wake in Sacred Waves‘s technical flair; it might not reach quite the same heights of progressive expression and melodrama as Bridging Realms; it might not have the same raw energy of Lifewoven. But it has a depth of emotional expression which those albums only hinted at, a desire to explore silences and moments at the edge of silence, where only the low rumble of the bass is heard, which intensely compliments the band’s existing sound. These depths makes the heights even more pronounced and impactful, setting the heart ablaze with freedom, with a yearning to break free out of a sobriety and melancholy that is still, and always, at life’s core.
Emergence is, once again, an incredible release from an incredible band.
Emergence releases on May 10th via Profound Lore Records. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page above to pre-order it.