Adjectives and phrases like “multifaceted”, “intricate”, and “richly textured” leap to mind in reflecting upon the wonders of Dreadnought’s new album, A Wake In Sacred Waves, but they seem inadequate. The music is exuberantly and inventively kaleidoscopic, filled to overflowing with juxtapositions of sound and emotional resonance. In its elaborate and intelligently plotted variations, and in its ability to draw the listener deeply into its changing moods, it has few genuine rivals this year.
Trying to scale its dizzying heights and descend into its labyrinthine depths through mere words proves to be a daunting challenge. Fortunately for me (and for you), we have a full stream of the album for you today, just before its October 6 release.
Through its four long tracks, the album tells a tale. As the band’s Kelly Schilling explains, setting it within the context of previous Dreadnought releases:
“Each album is loosely based on an element. Lifewoven was earth, Bridging Realms was ether, and this is our water album. You could think of them like Zelda temples. We wanted to make this a little bit darker and heavier because we were going through heavier parts of our lives. This record tells a story about the process of life and death. A sea creature evolves into an apex predator, takes over everything, and then falls from grace. It mirrors humanity’s own existential struggle.”
Dreadnought’s Kevin Handlon sheds a bit more detail to the narrative:
“In ‘Vacant Sea’, a species gets chased into a giant trench, where it evolves into the alpha in a new ecosystem. ‘Within Changing Waters’ discusses the way life relates to the ocean itself. The water can be interpreted as the nature goddess. The final two songs see the predator come into self-discovery, rise, and then come to ruin as the rest of her species and prey turn against her and take her down.”
To pull off the daring musical feats that Dreadnought accomplish on the album as they weave this story, it helps that they have such an array of talents at their disposal. Kelly Schilling’s chameleonlike voice can be angelic and pure or goblin-harsh and acidic. To that she adds skill in the performance of flute and guitar. Lyricist Kevin Handlon is adept on the mandolin as well as the bass, while Jordan Clancy adds a flare for the saxophone to the every-changing rhythms he produces in the midst of the drum kit, and Lauren Vieira adds further sonic textures on the keyboard and with her own haunting voice.
So, yes, they have a veritable arsenal of musical tonalities at their disposal. Even so, all that wouldn’t count for much without the kind of ingenious songwriting ability on display here, which harnesses all these elements together, putting each one in the right place, and using them to create an experience that flows, that feels natural, notwithstanding the music’s manifold twists and turns and all its heart-swelling ascents and crushing descents.
One reviewer wrote of the album: “Denver quartet Dreadnought delivers a deftly executed, completely entrancing sonic amalgamation that calls to mind everything from Bergtatt-era Ulver, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Kate Bush to Slint, June of ’44, and Sabbath at its psychedelic doom-iest. This particular brand of Rocky Mountain High has got the raining-fire-in-the-sky blast beats, guttural vocals, and fuzzed out nasty riffs, yes, but also serious post-punk groove and softer-than-a-lullabye ethereal croons, mandolin, flute, and saxophone.”
The album is an exercise in entrancement and conflagration, terror and transcendence. Crystalline notes and clarion vocals, shimmering cymbals and swirling keyboard layers, drums that thump like a beating heart, flute melodies that capture the fear and wonder of primeval eyes witnessing falling stars in a pitch-black sky… such things can make the music as evanescent and ephemeral as the cascade of northern lights. Echoing, wraithlike peals of the saxophone and eerie arpeggios provide an aura of mystery and mysticism.
But the music rips and ravages, too. Blazing riffs and growling bass lines, fiery shrieks and clawing rasps, writhing python-thick chords and punishing drum thunder… all those things (and more) cause the music to surge with dark and decimating power. There are extended instrumental jams within the songs that fire the nerves, trigger the muscles, and roil the brain just as effectively as the band send the listener’s mind off into a waking trance.
And there’s a lot more waiting for you as well. Explore the music for yourselves through our stream of this distinctive and hugely impressive album.
Order (CD and digital):
The band will join InAeona for a Western U.S. tour this fall, beginning on October 19th:
October 19 Rapid City, SD West Dakota Improv
October 20 Bozeman, MT Zebra Lounge
October 21 Kalispel, MT Old School Records
October 23 Seattle, WA Highline
October 24 Olympia, WA Cryptatropa
October 25 Portland, OR The Know
October 26 Eugene, OR Old Nick’s Pub
October 27 Chico, CA Lost on Main
October 28 Sacramento, CA The Blue Lamp
October 29 Oakland, CA Golden Bull
October 31 San Diego, CA The Merrow
November 1 Las Vegas, NV The Garth
November 2 Salt Lake City, UT Metro Music Hall
November 3 Cheyenne, WY TBA
November 4 Denver, CO Hi Dive
November 5 Colorado Springs, CO Triple Nickel