Ah tech death: my comfort genre. I have kinda missed writing about tech death and I’ve been looking for a reason to pick it back up. Maybe a weird thing to say, but we actually have quite a few on staff who appreciate tech death in all its permutations and glory, if you can believe it. I proudly count myself among the fold. As much as I vibe with music that is deep and emotionally affecting, sometimes I just want crazy fretboard acrobatics for their own sake and nothing more. Fortunately, on Greylotus’ debut full-length record Dawnfall, I don’t have to choose!
For the Baltimore, MD fivesome, it hasn’t been that long of a journey, but it has been marked with quite a lot of success up front. Debuting in 2018 with the Savior EP, the band quickly gained recognition and secured touring slots alongside the likes of Abiotic and Cognitive. Of course, all that touring would soon grind to a halt, but that didn’t slow the momentum of these gents, and now there is finally a proper full-length to go back out on the road behind. Dawnfall brings in elements from all over the musical spectrum, blending tech death with progressive tendencies, ambient electronics, and orchestral elements, all wrapped up in a concept album relating self-development to the life cycle of the lotus flower. According to the band, their ethos is to “leave memorable emotional postcards that listeners can connect with and reflect upon.” In that much, Greylotus is successful. Their attention to melody serves them very well here, as Dawnfall contains spots of real beauty, such as closer “Azure Rain” and “Chiaroscuro.” Of course, there’s also plenty of guitar wizardry in the form of fleet-fingered riffs and solos. There is absolutely no denying the technical skills on display here, and that goes for every instrument and the vocals. For as much beauty as there is in the album, it also hits very hard when it needs to, in the form of breakdowns that feel taken straight from mid-aughts metalcore (this is a very good thing, IMO). Interestingly, the band employs a wall-of-sound production style (mixed by Buster Odeholm of Humanity’s Last Breath and Vildhjarta, no less) as opposed to the more stark and cold tech death production that seems to be the flavor. The extra synths and strings help these songs feel full of depth underneath the requisite ripping arpeggios and crunchy riffs. It’s a very interesting take on the formula, one that really helps these songs paint a picture in the mind of where they want to go, and lends itself nicely to the band’s “emotional postcard” mission statement.
Unfortunately, this depth is also probably the biggest drawback to Dawnfall. An awful lot of great melodies and things that should stick out get buried underneath the weight of everything that is happening at once, and there isn’t really time given to let these parts breathe and make themselves felt before moving on to something else. Tech death is a genre notorious for moving from idea to idea in rapid succession, and it’s here that Dawnfall just barely misses the mark. Being able to smoothly bind all these lightning-fast parts together is a tricky thing, and I don’t quite feel like Greylotus stick the landing all the time. A lot of parts don’t seem to gel with the others that bookend them, and there are quite a few moments that I wish were more fleshed out and explored that seem to go by in the blink of an eye. Don’t get me wrong, any band with the unmitigated gumption to throw in a sample from The Fesh Pince of Blair (inarguably the Citizen Kane of YouTube poops) in one of their songs deserves big ups, but these random bursts of samples, keyboards or guitar runs make things feel a little disjointed, especially when they break up a section that I was really vibing with. Despite the disjointed transitions on Dawnfall, the parts by themselves are exceptional examples of progressive, technical metal, even if they don’t always find themselves into cohesive units.
Dawnfall is absolutely an album worth checking out for the technical chops alone. It is not without its (in my humble opinion) legitimate criticism, but I mostly level it because I can see the potential there. Greylotus are a young band, and I have every faith that they are only going to continue to perfect their craft on future releases. They have of lot of unique features in their sound that could allow them to break away from the pack and really make a name for themselves, so it’ll be interesting to see what the next one brings.