Review Summary: dredg shoots for the stars and lands safely on the moon.
On paper, El Cielo
looks like a magnum opus; an ambitious journey complete with "Brushstroke" interludes, an epic closer, and subject matter ranging from sleep paralysis to inspiration from abstract artists such as Salvador Dali. Where Leitmotif
was the sound of dredg finding their musical niche in the world and Catch Without Arms
was a band refining their original sound and adding a certain catchiness to it, El Cielo
is meant to be the highlight in dredg's consistent career; a peak of artistic acheivement that should propel dredg into otherworldly status.
is not that record. Sure, it's good, even excellent at times. But the problem is that the album is better as a collection of songs rather than a magnum opus coming full circle. It's a rather difficult mission to listen to El Cielo
in its entirety; the wide array of "Brushstrokes" are there to fill gaps in between the dense, brooding, segment-after-segment tracks, but they do little to add anything to the album. They are there as interludes, and while each one is special and brings something new to the table each time, it makes the album feel disjointed and at times all over the place. There's no real sense of purpose to El Cielo
; it's as if dredg went into it attempting to make their strongest songs possible and they arguably succeeded with gorgeous tracks like the surging yet calming "Sanzen" or the haunting melodies of "Sorry, But It's Over". But dredg seemed to forget about flow, about continuity; if you didn't know better, you might think that some of these songs are from different albums altogether.
That's not to say that this is some great music, however. Galvin Hayes is the focal point here with his airy, soaring voice covering almost every inch of songs not named "Brushstroke". Lyrically, Hayes is fantastic here and is possibly the highlight of the album; how he explains the ethereal subject matter of the album is wonderful with lines like "Into the bed, light around me / beautiful washes of pulsating color / buzzing white noise / it sounds like 100 bees / I, too, once thought the radio played"
in "Scissor Lock" that shows some beauty in an otherwise disturbing experience in sleep paralysis. He does sometimes blanket the songs too much, however, and doesn't allow the beautiful instrumentation to bloom into something magnificent. There's no room on El Cielo
; every song seems to have parts that are either repeated or forgotten about entirely and the songs flow with so much friction; there's no air to breathe here. Take "Triangle" for example; a well written song, sure, but it just uses parts over again that sound good yet with no space for innovation or virtuosity that seems like would fit so well into the tightness of the song.
Take El Cielo
for what its worth at face value; it's not the ultimate opus victory that dredg seemingly set out to accomplish. It's a mere collection of great songs and beautiful instrumentation blanketed by a soaring voice and introspective lyrics, surrounded by arguably pointless interludes and an otherwise outstanding closing track in "The Canyon Behind Her". Prepare for a long journey through the confusing maze that is El Cielo
as its twists and turns are difficult to navigate yet somewhat rewarding in the end. 3/5