Ever since its glory days of the 1970’s and 80’s, progressive rock has been viewed by some as the domain of those exclusively looking to show off their musicianship in overly-long. Lexington, Kentucky three-piece DREAM THE ELECTRIC SLEEP might well be the exception to this though, bringing in FOO FIGHTERS producer Nick Raskulinecz and making a play for a wider audience with their third album Beneath the Dark Wide Sky.
Opener Drift sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly, with PINK FLOYD-esque spacey guitar tones and vocals from Matt Page very much at the forefront. Sonically, it’s a strong start to the record – one that gradually builds throughout its five minutes, before hitting a powerful crescendo and an abrupt end that leaves you wanting more.
Things soon change though, and the influence of Grammy-winning producer Nick Raskulinecz becomes ever more apparent. The likes of Let the Light Flood In and Headlights sound very much akin to the FOO FIGHTERS played through a 60’s prog-rock filter, and the resulting mix is perhaps the strongest part of the album. The band clearly have somewhat of a knack for writing these
This is really a record of two different styles though, and for every hard-rocking anthem, there’s a more downbeat and melodic counterpart. The Good Night Sky, for example, takes some sonic cues from its predecessors, but adapts them into more of a ballad format driven by Joey Waters’ pounding drums. The slightly slowed pace also lends itself far more to allowing the listener to take in the sheer musicianship on show here.
There’s more than just a classic prog-rock influence on display here though. Penultimate track Black Wind appears to take just as many cues from MUSE and RADIOHEAD than it does PINK FLOYD or RUSH – adopting a clean guitar tone in its verses and smothering Page’s vocals in a foreboding soundscape that only lets loose in the song’s chorus. It’s such a shame then, that this brilliant momentum is somewhat dashed by what follows it. The record’s final track, All Good Things is very much in a similar vein, except it bizarrely includes over a minute’s worth of near-silence right in the middle of the track, before returning for a woefully short stab of power to wrap up the album. Stylistically, the band probably have their reasons for such a choice, but without context it feels totally unnecessary, and leaves the record to end on more of a whimper than a bang.
Really, how much enjoyment you’ll gain from Beneath the Dark Wide Sky depends on how you feel about its influences. There’s a lot to like about the album, but simultaneously, a lot that might be considered detrimental. Some songs feel overly-lengthy just for the sake of it, and interlude track The Last Psalm to Silence could, and probably should have, been dropped with little consequence. That said, this is still a strong album from a band that are clearly happy with their sound, and will likely continue to grow and evolve as time goes on. The amount of different styles on display here means listeners are sure to find at least a handful of moments that gel with them, and this must be applauded. Certainly an album worth checking out for prog-rock fans, both casual and dedicated.
Beneath The Dark Wide Sky is out now via Mutiny Records.
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