Review Summary: Don Dehlia has hints of brilliance, but is ultimately weighted by commonplace tendencies.
Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I want to enjoy Don Dehlia’s self-titled EP. It sounds kind of nostalgic, evoking memories of adolescent life and my initial foray into post-hardcore. But the thing is, Don Dehlia
suffers greatly from being inexperienced and is very much pigeonholed in ‘the scene’. You know the one I’m referring to: the scene whose target audience is comprised of a much younger, angsty demographic of kids who are just starting to delve into less commercialized music but don’t know quite where to start. Bands like these might be good for transitional purposes, but ultimately they’re ten a penny. No matter which angle you approach Don Dehlia
from, it’s nigh impossible to get past how young
it sounds. Despite the technical proficiency of the guitarists and drummer, the vocals - both screamed and cleanly sung - are so blatantly derivative of indie-rock and post-hardcore bands that it tarnishes the overall listening experience.
In fact, it’s a shame that there’s so much focus on the vocals, because the actual music on offer occasionally straddles the line between greatness and excellence. The first song “Living Spaces” sees the band play more to their experimental rock sensibilities, occasionally throwing in math-rock-esque guitar work in the vein of Maps and Atlases. “Shnazz” spreads its influences far and wide, employing elements of math-metal, noise-rock, progressive, and even - listen to this - some ska. It’s the only time on the EP that the band seems convicted and unified. The break-neck paced ending of “Shnazz” sees each member playing to the best of their abilities: frenetic guitar picking and left-field solos make an appearance when the song starts to collapse in on itself, eventually segueing into an erratic conclusion. But ultimately the drummer saves this and many other songs from being aimless throwaways. It’s pretty obvious that he’s the best asset the band has - he plays circles around everyone else and should be commended for his deft handling of drum-fills and cymbal crashes. Still, Artyom Madorsky dirties this brilliance too often. “Loriann” could have been great - Madorsky enters the song tastefully with shouts closely resembling Dustin Kensrue of Thrice - but it shifts its tone from sporadic to laid-back and restrained in such an awkward manner. Perhaps with a more competent vocalist it would be welcomed, but with Kensrue’s cleans being as commonplace as they are, it just feels contrived beyond belief.
Overall, Don Dehlia’s debut EP shows glimmers of brilliance, but all of the best moments are sullied by impoverished vocals and awkward tonal shifts. The cleans sound typically whiny and juvenile, but the shouts don’t seem like they’d be too out of place on a record like Vheissu
(with some tweaking) - even if they are a little grating at times. In “Elenher Historia” Madorsky can’t seem to find an acceptable middle-ground for his shouts and clean vocals as his voice keeps shifting from one to the other. This seems to be the overlying conflict here: which works best? Hopefully Madorsky goes back to the drawing board to figure it out, but I’ll say this in his defense: when he’s on, he’s pretty decent. The instrumentation is awe-inspiring on the album closer and quite impressive elsewhere, but ultimately Don Dehlia do very little to distinguish themselves from their contemporaries, resulting in a passable affair with little to revisit. This is just one EP though; who knows where the band will venture from here. At any rate, the potential is definitely there, they just need to find their niche.