Monday, May 28, 2018
Album Review: Dreyelands - Stages
"Stages", as the name implies, is centered around the five stages of grief, with each track standing in for one step in the process.
That begins with "Denial", where we spend two minutes building from the ominous beginning into a metallic rage. The drums and the riff echo a person either stomping or pounding their fist on a table, either a fitting metaphor. That leads us into "Anger", where things kick into gear. Over the nearly eight minutes, the band is able to go from grinding heavy riffs to atmospheric verses, from technical passages to a meaty vocal hook. There's a little bit of everything in the mix, and what makes Dreyelands stand out from the pack are the vocals of Nikola Mijic, who sits in a lower register than many prog metal singers. With the heavy tones and undertones of the music, his voice fits better than an ear-splitter ever could, not to mention the fatigue those types of singers induce in me.
"Bargaining" sees the music grow more tangled, as the step has been reached where the two sides are fighting over which will win out. The balance between involved heavy metal and soothing melody represents the dichotomy, and keeps the songs from becoming overwrought.
After the short spoken-word piece "Depression", "Acceptance" closes things out as the longest track, needing twelve minutes to reach the conclusion. The music hits its darkest point in the first half of the song, right before the catharsis comes. The change is signaled with a beautiful guitar solo, and leads us through to the other side. I've listened to enough progressive metal to know that its harder than you would think to keep the music melodic and accessible. The way Dreyelands is able to do that is paramount to their success. You can listen to this music at surface level, or dig deeper, and it works either way.
Let's boil this down. "Stages" is a release that has compelling progressive metal that does the style better than much of what you're liable to hear. The core tracks here are fantastic. The issue I take is that two of the five stages are brief interludes, meaning we only get three meaty songs to sink our teeth into. I know the adage about leaving your audience wanting more, and I do, but I also feel like an opportunity was missed to flesh out all five into an album that would have stood up well against the world of progressive metal circa 2018. "Stages" is excellent over the course of its 35 minutes. I just think the process of moving through the stages might require a bit more time. Still, "Stages" is definitely recommended.