[Odyssey Music Network, 2016]
Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas
Translation: Niki Nikolakaki
16 / 12 / 2016
When in early 2014 Heretics, the second album of Dream the Electric Sleep, was released, the reaction of us all was enthusiastic (our reviews in Greek here). The leap from their debut Lost and Gone Forever (2011) was huge and suddenly we had to do with a crossover prog frontline band. Two years later, the band from Lexington, USA released Beneath the Dark Wide Sky with Nick Raskulinecz in production and high aspirations.
**Insert Bad Dream joke here**
The first acquaintance with Dream the Electric Sleep was with Heretics in 2014. A fantastic album full of ideas, freshness and energy. Most importantly, their sound had a more indie aesthetic that made them stand out from bands that in recent years are restoring a more retro sound. With Beneath the Dark Wide Sky the band worked with the producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush, Mastodon etc.) in an effort to make contact with a wider audience.
The result though perhaps more radio-friendly, is not as strong as Heretics. The power of the album is in individual pieces, but not necessarily consistent throughout. The opening Drift and Let the Light Flood in are indicative of the sound that is prevailing in the album. Pretty catchy, with a more pleasant mood. The orchestration reminds a lot of early Anathema, with the instruments coming in slowly and the pieces being guided quite a lot by the vocals.
Beyond the lack of consistency, the fact that is quite frustrating in the album is the mixing that gives enough space to the vocals without highlighting the strong points of the other musicians. Joey Waters on drums and Chris Tackett on bass are creating a powerful rhythm section, which helps to give a grayer result in the aesthetics of the album. Matt Page’s guitar helps with the Floyd-ish elements of the album existing in Heretics as well, except that they have a more positive aura similar to the past records of Anathema. More generally, the album is characterized by a post-rock aesthetic with melodies gradually evolving to a crescendo.
The above is not necessarily bad, but the change in sound in conjunction with the mixing does not highlight the strong features of the musicians, making the album sound a bit more procedural. Exceptions to the above are We Who Blackout the Sun, Black Wind and All Good Things. The first one as an instrumental piece shows the technical training of the musicians to create a full darker sound. Black Wind has a similar sound effect with We Who Blackout the Sun but with the very good vocals by Matt Page to charge emotionally the song. All Good Things that closes the album is the ideal continuation after Black Wind since it is soothing without chatter and gives a nice sense of fulfillment in the album.
While Heretics seems to create a momentum for Dream The Electric Sleep that made them stand out, the follow-up unfortunately is not comparable. The change to a more radio-friendly sound and the mixing of Beneath the Dark Wide Sky that does not give enough space to the musicians and brings the vocals far ahead doesn’t do special favors to the overall result. I hope the band of 2014 with the freshness and ideas is back in their next album.
6.5 / 10
The third album of Dream The Electric Sleep is the successor to the amazing Heretics of 2014 which was the occasion to come into contact with their music. Their alternative prog was impressive because of the freshness it gave off due to the well embedded influences and of course its wonderful melodies stood out. This year’s effort is even more ambitious with Nick Raskulinecz taking over the production of the album, although I doubt whether his presence is beneficial for the band. Their sound seems to lose in personality, being somewhat sterile, like many modern productions which are affected by excessive “purity”. Concerning the songs, the band seems to be moving to more commercial routes, more conventional rock forms, qualitative but partially trivial. In short, Beneath The Dark Wide Sky is undoubtedly a good album, but lower in class than its predecessor. Nice though, but unfortunately it is not something special.
7 / 10