It feels like Dreadnought releases have become pillars in my biography, standing tall in the landscape of my writing career. I am immensely happy with this; over the last few years, Dreadnought have been hard at work on their music, turning it from the already-excellent and unique sound that I first encountered with Bridging Realms into something even more expansive and uncompromising. Every inch that Dreadnought have toured, every byte of online recognition, and every stream of any of their songs is incredibly well deserved because of this. I’ve been writing for eight years now and there are maybe three or four other bands that have dived deeper into the core of their sound and reconfigured it.
This makes every Dreadnought album that pillar. It’s not “just” another release but rather always a step forward into something new for the band. Back in 2017, I broke down this progression, looking back on Dreadnought’s album that had been released up until that point and figuring where they stand, in concept and in sound. Since then, Dreadnought released the excellent Emergence, which was perhaps the largest departure from their overarching direction until that point. It was an album couched in the language of fire but not of the conflagration but of the smoldering ember, deep-seated passion running through its every note.
Which fits in neatly with The Endless, Dreadnought’s album dedicated to the night and to darkness. This conceptual context is also fitting seeing as The Endless marks the end of an era for Dreadnought with the departure of the brilliant, talented, and quite-nice-to-have-brunch with Lauren Vieria (yeah, I’m just that cool). Just like night’s end signifies the coming of a new day, so too the listener stands at the edge of something when The Endless well, ends, looking forwards into a new phase in Dreadnought’s journey. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; to reach the end of the journey underground (what the Ancient Greeks called katabasis), we must first venture through the abyss itself.
Where Bridging Realms’ darkness was the blackness of space, studded with stars and brimming with ether, The Endless sinks into the depths of other realms and, indeed, beyond them and into whatever might lay beyond. In that sense, I was not idle when I cited the katabasis above. Like Odysseus’, Aeneas’, and Orpheus’ famous descent into the underworld, the tale is less about the sights we see along the way (although they are also important) and more about the transformation, or the possibility for transformation, and its acceptance or refusal. In that regard, The Endless becomes a somewhat meta album, as Dreadnought themselves stand with transformation at hand.
OK, shall we talk a bit about the music? In keeping with this darker theme, and the eventual re-emergence (see what I did there?) into light, The Endless is a decidedly more umbral and shadowy album. Listening to “Worlds Break”, the album’s opener, you can hear it in the more pronounced and redolent synth tones, much louder than anything we’ve heard on a Dreadnought album so far. The other elements, for this track at least, are pretty much in keeping with Dreadnought’s formula; Schilling’s growls are as ferocious as ever, working wonders with the complex compositions that underpin them. Of course, the main linchpin of the sound is that classic Dreadnought tension between fragile beauty (listen to those chimes, the spiraling clean vocals, the Vieria’s piano) and powerful aggression. In fact, you might have noticed something if you’ve been listening/reading carefully (paying special attention to my perfect use of parenthesis); “Worlds Break” sounds mostly like a Bridging Realms track, perhaps connecting the two darkest/most ethereal albums of Dreadnought’s career together.
Regardless, this connection is quickly discarded in favor of “Midnight Moon”, the album’s leading single. This is, undoubtedly, one of Dreadnought’s best tracks to date. Even before the decidedly primal interlude at the center of the track which will draw most listeners’ attention, with its darkly churning bass recalling the album’s theme, the track is incredible. Its Dreadnought’s approach laid out above now distilled into its most convincing form. This is the perfect layup for that middle passage, which is, indeed, the album’s concept earliest and perhaps most effective manifestation. It oozes with the mystical and otherworldly elements of the album’s concept, conjuring the track’s name into being before our eyes. The groovy and evocative section which follows it is the imagined ritual’s culmination, exploding with the energies bubbling in the transition. This continues until the end of the track, whereupon it blends with the album’s self titled track and its ethereal, effervescent beauty.
And here, at the center of our journey, at the self-titled track, the nadir of the album and its transformation, we come, once again, to the heart of Dreadnought’s power. On The Endless, it manifests (like on Bridging Realms, but differently) in the band’s ability to mix darkness with a grand scale, to be both violent and delicate, bravely fragile and uncompromisingly powerful. I would not be exaggerating if I said that, in the minutes that pass between “Midnight Moon” and “The Endless”, I am, every single time, covered in chills. It’s such a stark, distilled, and achingly beautiful iteration of everything I love about this band brought into detail from a different angle once again. Dreadnought’s subtlety and expertise are cast in The Endless‘ darkness and lunar light.
Of course, as you know, I could go on; suffice it now to say that this grand scale, Dreadnought’s flair for the epic and the fantastical, only intensifies as the album culminates towards its end. But the katabasis, crucially, is experienced along and thus I leave you to explore the second half of The Endless for yourself, forearmed perhaps with the conceptual and musical framework I have attempted to provide here. What power lies at the end of our occluded journey? What transformation does The Endless and its odyssey demand of us and, indeed, demands of Dreadnought and the future of the band? Time will tell. For now, I stand once again in awe as one of metal’s best bands continue to explore themselves as musicians, our world as myth, and metal in all its incredible, unbridled potential.
Dreadnought’s The Endless was released on August 26th. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp above to grab it. Please do.
As you might have been able to glean from the review above, Dreadnought are good friends of the blog. Therefore, it was our distinct pleasure to be able to run an Anatomy Of post as part of this review! Some of these choices make a lot of sense; others are of incredibly good albums which are at first surprising, but then fit in with the overall penchant of the band to experiment and reach unexpected places in search of inspiration. Head on down below to check out their selections!
Jordan Clancy – Drums/Percussion
System of a Down – Toxicity
This album planted a musical seed in me when I was a preteen brace-faced drummer, that would forever influence the trajectory of my musical taste and playing forever. My obsession with the sounds of SOAD’s Toxicity would be a musical catalyst, leading me to the depths of discovering other metal bands that opened my young mind to appreciate heavier and darker sounds. When my friend up the street introduced this album to me in middle school, it was the most extreme music I had ever heard. It was best appreciated at full speaker volume when parents were at work, rattling the entire house while my friends and I decimated obstacle courses of couch cushions spanning the whole first floor and maybe spilling onto the trampoline outside sometimes. As a small sprout of a drummer, I felt at home listening to the title track “Toxicity” which showcases snappy snare flam breaks within the opening riff followed by a barrage of low tom/guitar chuggs that I just couldn’t get enough of. I went on to study the hell out of this song and others to try to replicate the high energy and dynamic drumming that stimulated my young ADHD brain.
John Dolmayan became one of my top drumming idols at this time in my life, who’s playing I aspired to replicate in our crappy little garage band that would cover SOAD songs such as Chop Suey!, Aerials, The Prison Song, and of course Toxicity. John Dolmayan’s drumming style was unique in that he made immensely heavy drum sounds while not using much, or any, double bass. Looking back, I can also appreciate the uniqueness and diversity of each song without him overplaying or being repetitive throughout the album. This style had me working hard to improve my hand and foot technique to execute fast disco hi-hats single stroke rolls, learning to lay down the toms and “bring the heavs”, interlacing single kick drums into beats at carefully chosen locations, while also steeping my young brain in classic rock grooves during the choruses.
Not only did the music hit me at the right place at the right time, but the cultural influence of System of A Down was a big part of my connection with the rebellious nature of the metal scene as a whole. The lyrical theming inspired me to investigate the intentions of those in power, to question authority, and to go against the grain when it’s the right thing to do. The songs seemed to be bringing attention to the darkest shadows of the systems that we are all born into, not fully from a suffering/depressive approach, but with a sense of power, ferocity, and even some goofiness! Two decades later, I have to acknowledge the musical and cultural chain reaction that Toxicity launched me into. It ultimately unlocked a universe of metal music that would lead me to the path of becoming a drummer in this community.
Kevin Handlon – Bass Guitar
Opeth – Blackwater Park
Opeth’s vision for this album was clearly much groovier than their back catalog and Martin Méndez turned that vision into his personal playground. Placing my hand over his fingerprints to learn “Bleak” would culminate into my first time falling in love with the bass guitar. His seamless movements between mirroring of the drumbeat, doubling and tripling the guitar melodies, and drifting off into his own grooves and leads blew my brain wide open and left me wanting to chase that kind of pocket play forever. Beyond that, Martin Lopez’s unchained snare draws us the boundaries of the pocket with a heavy hand, and the production on it (thank you Steven Wilson) keeps that visceral tonality groomed and punchy. As a final note, the way Blackwater Park coalesces into its ripper of a closing title track deeply affected my ideals for arrangements.
Kelly Schilling – Guitars / Vocals / Flute
Moonsorrow – Viides Luku Havitetty
This album will always have a special place in my heart. It was incredibly influential for me as a teen / young adult and I still enjoy it today. When I first heard it I was blown away by the cohesive long form writing, which likely has something to do with why Dreadnought has written in long form for so many years. The atmosphere is rich and the melodies full of feeling. The first song “Born from Ice/Stream of Shadows“ with its 30 minute length, is simple with only a few different melodic movements which I think adds to its power. Each passage builds to the next with such grace. The second track “A Land Driven Into The Fire“ begins in 5/4 which very much influenced my love for that time signature. My introduction to this record was also during a time when I was thrilled by folk and classical instruments in metal. Bands with folk passages made me excited to mix my flute and guitar playing together, and this record blends atmospheric back metal and folk tones so well. The production is huge, It is dark, incredibly lush, and adds the perfect amount of folk groove. I also love Ville Sorvalli’s vocals and used to practice screaming along to this record among other Moonsorrow albums as a young adult. The reason my scream sounds the way it does in general can be credited to Moonsorrow. I have so many memories listening to this album with friends throughout the years, it’s truly nostalgic and I’ll never forget those moments.