It’s nearly a given at this point in heavy music that genre lines are far more blurred than they were even ten years ago. As the tendrils of post-metal, ambient music, and shoegaze crept into black metal, death metal, and doom metal (and vice versa), it suddenly became much harder to classify bands with a rigid genre tag. The same has happened with a good amount of music tangential to metal: Post-punk has always been viewed as the big brother (or father, even) of goth rock, new wave, and industrial, but the beginning of each sound was fairly self-contained in its origins until artists started integrating more textures. It’s interesting, then, when all these worlds collide at once; Atlanta-based trio Dead Register have crafted an absolutely stunning debut with Fiber, which seamlessly coalesces influences from gothic rock, shoegaze, doom metal, and some “post” tendencies, both rock and metal.
The primary strength of Fiber is that its textures are incredibly wide-ranging yet never feel unfocused, even with its relatively long songs. Opener “Alone” waltzes between throbbing bass lines, melodic guitar crescendoes, and a forlorn chorus that recalls the most cathartic moments from Joy Division’s Closer and Sisters of Mercy’s First and Last and Always. Dead Register are somehow able to navigate multiple terrains and never lose sight of the end goal, an admirable feat in itself. For as visceral and downtrodden as Fiber is, it has no shortage of hooks and even memorability, yet it’s also as monolithic and stark as any doom metal release, invoking the feel of Neurosis and Cult of Luna with its hefty mix and roaring bass distortion. Album highlight “Grave” is the clearest example of how all of these elements join together without hesitation or arbitration, as the sustained melody of the vocals rings above mournful, melodic guitar lines before switching to a palm-muted stacatto and circling back on itself. Fiber certainly doesn’t feel like a debut; the usual staggering in and out of different musical territories is absent here, and if the band lack any confidence in their own identity, they’re doing a damn good job of hiding it behind the monstrous wall of synths and low frequencies.
M. Chvasta’s vocals are a perfect fit for the overwhelming gloom of the band’s sound but never cross over into melodrama or forced emotion. The solemness of Ian Curtis is a clear parallel, but Chvasta’s vocal range is more refined and has similar phrasing to Depeche Mode’s darker cuts. The remainder of the band’s sound is dense but nuanced; Chad Williams’s drumming is steady but never intrusive, and Avril Che’s buzzing synths recall the days of early new wave without sounding dated and take on a nearly industrial feel in their noisy approach. The title track is heavily reliant on its interplay of the pounding drums, clanging bass, and effects-laden guitar with ominous keys and synth effects with some angular noise-rock thrown in for good measure. In the same vein, “Drawing Down” provides an interesting change from the more melodic sensibilities of the album’s remainder, instead relying on its stark, monochrome doom-like rhythms until climaxing in a tidal wave of guitar melodies and an intoxicating yet heartbreaking chorus: “On that day, our whole world, it fell apart / The light in your eyes diminished / With folded hands and frozen hearts.” It’s a song that is full of both longing and foreboding; its glimmering guitar lines even borrow from the school of early Forgotten Tomb.
Fiber is a lot to take in one sitting – “Entwined” is the shortest song at just under five minutes and many other tracks stretch beyond seven minutes – and it’s an album that will take repeated listens before it starts making sense, both musically and emotionally. It’s easy to write it off as a mere goth-influenced post-punk album with louder guitars, but Fiber is far more than the sum of its parts and deserves all the accolades I can throw at it. If you’re looking for an album that will rattle your skull with its sheer power yet still have the gloomy and nuanced aesthetics of goth and post-punk, Dead Register needs to be on your radar. Ever wondered what Bauhaus would sound like with a wall of Sunn amps? Here ya go. Dive in.