(In this 73rd edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography to date of Maryland’s Dying Sun.)
Recommended for fans of: Altars of Plagues, Cult of Luna, Massive Attack
Every so often a band comes out of nowhere and blindsides you with how utterly fantastic they are, making you wonder how in the world you ever managed to get along without them.
Dying Sun are one such band.
The Maryland three-piece deal in a brand of intensely metallic, immensely atmospheric Post-Metal not quite like anyone else I’ve heard (although general comparisons to both Cult of Luna and Altars of Plagues are certainly valid, to an extent), packed full of titanic, weighty riffs, anguished vocals, and cosmological waves of pulsating programming.
Ever since discovering them I’ve had all three of their releases (arguments can be made as to which of them counts as an EP or as an album) practically glued to my playlist, and I’ve just been waiting for the right time to share their moody magnificence with you all.
Well, that time has come.
5125 – 2008
The ringing, minimalist melodies, and deep, thrumming bass lines that open “Phantom Heartbeat” immediately set the tone for this, the band’s debut EP. Haunted and desolate, the track transitions smoothly between blissful ambience and groaning, oppressive weight, the vocals in turn switching between bleak harmony and harrowing intensity, carrying you from monolithic movement to monolithic movement with glacial, unstoppable force, leading to the song’s staccato, industrial-tinged finale.
The fragile guitar and vocal melodies that dominate “Crossing Over” are interwoven with moments of mountainous, metallic heft and sky-scraping, cosmological melody, brutish, bellowing vocals, and heavy, crunching riff work, moving with crushing inevitability towards a synth-drenched, ambient mid-section which only serves as the calm before the storm which follows, riffs and drums heaving and raging in a cathartic explosion of might and melody.
“The Noose” practically shivers with torment and anguish, its vast sonic landscape echoing with the sound of haunting, ritualistic vocals and strained, post-apocalyptic melodies, slowly developing into something far more visceral and antagonistic, complete with some of the boldest, sharpest guitar hooks and weightiest, wall-of-sound intensity on the entire EP.
5125 concludes (caveat: though there are two bonus tracks on the physical release, neither one is quite as good as the four main songs which make up the EP proper) with the desolate downpour of “The Storm Within”, whose clouds gather slowly enough at first, only to eventually unleash their elemental fury in waves of thundering noise and electric power, culminating in a surprisingly solemn, electronica-infused and lead-guitar-driven outro.
12212010 – 2011
Despite its relatively short, sub-thirty-five-minute length, 12212010 counts (according to Metal-Archives at least) as the band’s first full-length album. However you want to classify it though, it’s actually my favourite of their releases, and the one I find myself returning to the most (though Transcendence is certainly gaining some ground in my affections).
Opening with the nine-and-a-half minute “Silence is Surrender”, it’s eminently clear that the band have truly come into their own, the epic (and I do not use that word lightly) track taking you on a journey of light and shade, sound and fury, loss and revelation, that brims to overflowing with soothing melodies, cathartic vocals, monolithic riffs, and an ever-changing, effortlessly fluid dynamic.
The throbbing, Blade Runner-esque undercurrent of “I Was Promised The World” immediately sets a desolate, dissociated tone for the track, which the sombre, downbeat vocals only add to with their own depressive, dejected vibe.
When the explosive potential of the track finally erupts into life you’re treated to a truly cinematic and vivid display of power and atmosphere easily the equal of anything else you might care to mention, building to a penultimate pairing of disconsolate ambience and raging distortion, that soon burns itself out into eerie nothingness.
Much like its predecessor, “We All Dissolve” is somewhat reminiscent of the much-missed Altar of Plagues with its enigmatic waves of scorched and barren chords and echoing tremolo melodies, though it sets itself firmly apart with its prominent incorporation of coldly compelling electronica, pulsing and glistening with red-shift radiance just beneath the surface.
Following the gloomy acoustic interlude of “Regret” the album concludes with the exceptional “Without Arms”, building from its languid, forlorn beginnings into something far heavier and more evocative, where twinkling piano runs and lambent burst of electronic sound swirl and dance around a churning corona of dense, industrialised riffs and ringing, celestial melodies.
TRANSCENDENCE – 2014
At around fifty-one minutes in total running time Transcendence is a huge album, in length, in girth, in sound, and in ambition. Beginning with the ominous and oppressive, industrial-tinged vibes of “Generating the Sphere”, there’s a newfound clarity to the band’s sound that speaks not only of a superior production job, but also of their steadily evolving ability to provide each instrument and each element with its own space whilst retaining that holistic sensibility which makes each of their songs such a rewarding, and self-contained, journey.
With its blend of evocative ambience, scintillating melody, and brooding heaviness, it’s the perfect introduction to the album, leading seamlessly into the similarly titanic (though not quite as extensive) strains of “The Night Sky”, which juxtaposes a crushing, machine-like stomp with a zest for dream-like melody, while also showing off the versatility and variety in the band’s vocal approach, as well as some impressively dizzying and nuanced fretwork in the song’s back half.
The teasing piano at the beginning of “Dead” soon gives way to a tyrannical procession of booming riffs and harshly dissonant vocals, the song’s thunderous, pounding dynamic intercut here and there with moments of aching vulnerability, and it’s this sense of vulnerability and frailty, in amongst all the noise and chaos which they conjure, which is perhaps the key to unlocking Dying Sun’s musical enigma.
Both “The Weight of Time” and “Stillness” find the band delving ever deeper into the doomier end of their repertoire, albeit in very different ways. The former is all slow-burning ambience and minimalist percussion, droning synths and aching clean-sung vocals, while the latter is a heaving, lurching monster of humongous riffs, eerily infectious guitar melodies, and howling, harrowing catharsis, leading into the bruising, broodingly intense “Of Failing Flesh”, whose clanging riffs and deep, thrumming bass-lines are accented by a mesmerising array of vocal and lead guitar harmonies that only serve to accentuate the track’s back-breakingly heavy dynamic.
Just like its predecessor, the penultimate track on Transcendence, “We Don’t Belong Here”, is a solemn acoustic/electronic interlude which serves to prime the listener for the exquisite finale of “Transcendence (Leaving)”, which encapsulates every element of the band’s sound – their sense of darkly atmospheric grandeur, their heaving, doom-laden power, their sheer emotional weight – in one climactic composition.