Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Album Review: Dendera - Pillars Of Creation

One of the things I'm prone to doing is searching through the wonderful world of music for an explanation as to how certain sounds that amaze me have never been replicated outside of their origins.  There are certain bands or albums that I love dearly, that existed only for a moment in time, without followers taking up the cause.  I can gripe about that for more words than I need to, but the point is that one of the sounds that I dearly wish had become a bigger part of our metal world is the tenor and tone Bruce Dickinson struck with his trilogy of phenomenal solo albums, "Accident Of Birth", "The Chemical Wedding", and "Tyrrany Of Souls".  Those albums should have ushered in a new wave of melodic metal for this millennium, but instead they are curious outliers that prove Bruce's undeniable genius.

Dendera comes into this discussion, because they are a band I came across when searching for that elusive sound.  Their previous album, "The Killing Floor", was described in the same terms, and since I was not going to pass up the opportunity to find what I had been looking for, I took a chance on them.  That album was close to what I was looking for, but it was also a promising album that showed Dendera was a band that knew how to make proper heavy metal that still burnished sharp hooks.

With their new album, Dendera is forging more of their own identity, growing into something more than a band that can be described as being 'similar to _____'.  "Pillars Of Creation" is an album that reaches for much more than their previous record, and stretches out with new influences.

"Claim Out Throne" opens the album in dramatic fashion, with a slow building guitar harmony and faint crashing cymbals, before the song rips open with a furious riff.  The guitars are suitably heavy, with a thick tone and low tuning, while the vocals sit in the mid-range and retain just a hint of operatic flair.  The melody lines are simple, but when the chorus hits, it has that head-banging quality to it that is the very reason we listen to metal.

"Bloodlust", as the title would suggest, is more aggressive, showing the band at their heaviest and most visceral.  But even as they attack the verses, the chorus of the song opens up into another grand melodic moment, which is a perfect way of maintaining balance in the songwriting, and not wearing out the pace. 

After that, the songs stretch their wings a bit, with "In High Tide" carrying the same epic sweep that "The Chemical Wedding" used as a stock-in-trade, and to the same effect.  The riffs are dark and chunky, and the vocal hooks are perfectly framed, with a melody that is both catchy and a bit grand at the same time.  It is by no means a copycat, but it has the same feeling that Dickinson's best work evoked.  It's a brilliant song.

That feeling keeps up through "Disillusioned", while "The Daylight Ending" has a bit more of an old-school thrash attitude, but still with a focus on anchoring the song with a strong hook.  Throughout the album, and perhaps in spite of the tastes of many metal fans, the band's best moments are when they slow the tempos.  The chorus in "The Chosen One" is a highlight, and when the slower riff enters before the bridge, with its crushing heaviness bouyed by the empty space between the notes, it's all the stronger for its relaxed pace.

What Dendera has done with "Pillars Of Creation" is make a record that improves upon their previous one in every way.  The album is heavier, hookier, and more mature at the same time.  "The Killing Floor" was a pretty good record, and this one is a clear step up.  When I look at the landscape of what 'modern metal' has turned into, I can't understand how the type of music Dendera is playing didn't become the blueprint.  This is a great bridge between the ultra-heavy world we live in, and the glorious heyday of the 80s.

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