Since 2013 Dreadnought have been spinning more plates in the air than you can shake a stick at, although why you’d want to shake a stick at anyone, let alone someone successfully spinning a myriad of plates in the ether is beyond me. Managing the tricky balancing act of doom, progressive rock, post-metal, and straight up black metal still seems to come effortlessly to this band. On The Endless, album number five sees those spinning plates shift ever so slightly in favor of the more progressive doom side of things, but it’s a shift that works well, creating a lovely dark atmosphere with enough dynamics to keep listeners coming back.
Endlessly, you might say.
The trick of Dreadnought has always been their ability to switch from the plaintive, forlorn progressive doom elements and spring forth into some of the nastiest bottom heavy metal you can imagine in a way that makes each transition seem inevitable as opposed to abrupt or ill-timed. I noted their graceful way of handling transitions back when I reviewed A Wake In Sacred Waves back in 2017, but the truth is this push and pull has been there since their jewel in the rough debut Lifewoven in 2013. The core lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kelly Schilling, drummer Jordan Clancy, bassist Kevin Handlon, and keyboardist/vocalist Lauren Vieira have now had a decade to refine their attack, and The Endless feels like a band confident in their footing and willing to step out for more experimental moments: take the great throbbing pulse of the bass in an almost trance-like moment about three minutes into second track, “Midnight Moon.” The world temporarily slips off its axis to land in a cellar nightclub, all strobe lights and dark leather until the song emerges again in a rip of distortion back to the shores of metal.
The Endless revels in extremities. Opener “Worlds Break” trades in piano and gently chiming guitars (accompanied by some great percussion – Clancy is phenomenal throughout the album) for its first three minutes before going straight up black metal with tremolo riffing and Schilling giving a piercing vocal performance. There are definite touchstones of modern pre-Heritage Opeth present in the songwriting as well: the band really know how to craft a strong guitar melody to ride atop all the crushing distortion below. The title track feels almost sedated for most of its admittedly brief(er) runtime of four and a half minutes before churning out a crushing outdo in its final moments.
There’s some terrific metal guitar riffing on both “Liminal Veil” and single “Gears of Violent Endurance” that we can talk about for days, but each time I listen to the songs the thing that really sticks with me is the great keyboard work. There’s the standard padding synths to layer and bulk up the overall sound as well as some great mellotron and organ work to really emphasize the heavy 70s vibe, but keyboardist Lauren Vieira injects a lot of the melody for each song with her piano work. It shouldn’t, but it does feel rare and surprising to hear unadorned piano woven into the fabric of the songs so organically. But it would be wrong to discount how heavy and riff-tastic the guitars are. They are not an afterthought, and time and again throughout The Endless Schilling reminds you that, yes: Dreadnought most certainly are a metal band and they will melt your face off when they feel like it.
It’s great to discover a band that after a decade is not only still intact, but steadily working on evolving their sound to reach into darker corners, explore untrodden avenues and grow. Dreadnought consistently prove to be unafraid to shape their sound the way they want to, and judging by the complex array of emotions on display both in the lyrics (the album travels through a cycle of, in Schilling’s words, “the human divide of light and suffering”) and the music, The Endless is poised to be their biggest accomplishment to date.
May it long continue.