Here we go, down that same ol' road again...
It's certainly an odd statement for dredg
to make as they open El Cielo
, because quite frankly, the album sounds pretty much like nothing else they had previously done. It's an album built on melodic guitar lines, soaring vocals, and an original and engaging concept, and one that reveals more of it's brilliance with each successive listen. El Cielo
is more than just a collection of amazing songs, its a musical and emotional experience that will never cease to astound and amaze, time after time.
Let's act like children while we sleep paralysed...
Similar to Leitmotif
, El Cielo
is a concept album, however the concept is more prevalent and integral to the record than it was on it's predecessor. The album is influenced by a Salvador Dali painting (Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening), which in turn is inspired by the topic of sleep paralysis, a condition whereby the person is literally paralysed before or after sleeping; during this state the person often hallucinates, visually and aurally. It's certainly an original concept, and one that becomes more startling and, dare I say, terrifying by reading through the letters in the album's booklet from genuine sufferers of the condition, detailing their past experiences and emotions felt during those times. However, to say that the concept is simply one part of the album would be false; the concept IS the album, both lyrically and musically.
The pen ink is running dry, it's been thrown to paper and wasted...
No more lyrically prevalent is the concept than in Scissor Lock
, as it pretty much details the symptoms and events of the condition such as "buzzing white noise", "pulsating colours" and "auditory hallucinations". Similarly, the chorus to Convalescent
states that suffering from it is "the only way to understand" what the condition is like. A large portion of the lyrics were inspired by said letters in the booklet, and often feature direct quotes from them, or interpretations of the experiences described. Whoa is Me
quotes a line about floating on a "dry lake bed" with a "dry mouth", and The Canyon Behind Her
includes the question "does anybody feel this way?" Whereas Triangle
interprets the person's aural hallucination of tribal chanting with the lines "we live like penguins in the desert, why can't we live like tribes?", and on It Only Took a Day
the writer's mentioning of pulling his blanket over his head is interpreted with the line "restore our needed shelter".
The notes are silent, the music's still apparent...
The music itself plays just as vital a role in portraying and understanding the concept as the lyrics. Whether it's the sedated, smooth feel of Scissor Lock
providing a great antithesis to it's blunt lyrical descriptions, or the whirling electronic noises at the end of Eighteen People Live in Harmony
(once again interpreted from the letter). The 'Brushstroke
' interludes tie in with the concept as well: 'Brushstroke
, and An Elephant in the Delta Waves
are all references to the painting, the latter having a distinct tribal sound which appears to be another interpretation of the Triangle
letter. Each band member performs at the top of their respected game throughout the whole album. Guitarist Mark Engles uses a lot of delay effects to give off a dreamlike atmosphere to the songs (Sanzen
is a good example of this), as well as jumping to the other end of the spectrum to create heavy, distorted riffs on tracks such as Of the Room
and Sorry But It's Over
. Meanwhile Drew Roulette lays down many a groove-induced bass line, the opening to Same Ol' Road
in particular is a highlight, and Dino Campanella is at his usual high standard, providing many varied and often schizophrenic drum fills. Without a doubt though Gavin Hayes tops them all with his beautiful, evocative vocals that help to elevate the already amazing lyrics into something truly out of this world; its certainly doubtful whether the final lines of The Canyon Behind Her
, for example, would have been as effective if it wasn't for the heart-wrenchingly painful way in which he delivers them.
Lift your anchor and just float astray...
And this, for me, is what ascends El Cielo
to the highest echelon, the undeniable raw emotion that is projected throughout. Never before has my spine shivered so much when listening to a piece of music; whether it be Gavin's wail of "we must push on" on Same Ol' Road
, the melancholic piano on Walk in the Park
, or the bizarre yet fitting saxophone piece to end off Whoa Is Me
. No matter how moving these moments can be however, they're easily overshadowed by arguably the best song on the album: The Canyon Behind Her
. This may very well be the only song that I consider to be perfect, everything about it: the ambient build-up, dense wall-of-sound dynamics, amazing lyrics, energetic drumming and ethereal vocals, everything is just flawless. No other song has affected or will likely affect me in the same way The Canyon Behind Her
Before you go, there is something more to say...
is, put simply, one of the best albums I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. Not only is the music immensely enjoyable on its own, but when combined with such an original and poignant concept, then it becomes more than just an album, it becomes a work of art. It may sound clichéd, but dredg
have created a definitive magnum opus; a masterpiece that no doubt will continue to amaze and affect those with the patience to appreciate it in years, maybe decades to come.
Though half of me is gone,
The lonesome part is left,
I cannot find the other half.