Kentucky natives Dream the Electric Sleep are, in a nutshell, tremendous. Purveying an exhilarating blend of modern prog and vintage hard rock, there are moments on this, their third release, that are absolutely up there with the best you’ll hear in heavy music in 2016.
Australian readers will be pleased to note that very often DtES are heavily reminiscent of their own heroes of the genre, The Butterfly Effect, although to tie the band to one sound or comparison is to do them a massive disservice. Take second track on the album Let the Light Flood In, for instance; A gargantuan slab of tuneful, emotionally-affecting rock music, replete with melodies to die for and wave after wave of tastefully-constructed riffage that batters the ears yet caresses the soul; it’s the sound of a band only hinting at what they are capable of yet simultaneously outstripping the opposition in terms of execution and immediate result.
Flight echoes Welsh rockers Feeder with its simple beauty, whilst We Who Blackout the Sun is more reflective – some might say Floydian – as it wends its way from filigree prog whispering through stentorian post rock and metallic soloing courtesy of Matt Page (who also sings and gives a man of the match performance throughout the album) and back again thanks to a superb diminuendo that leaves the song ebbing away like something found in the back of Mike Oldfield’s imagination.
Hanging by Time ups the pace again and features another truly superb solo from Page, but it turns out that these tracks, marvellous though they undoubtedly are, are merely preparing the listener for the real meat of the album, which comes in the form of the three songs Culling the Herd, The Good Night Sky and Headlights; The first of this triumvirate, at just over seven and a half minutes in length is the album’s epic centrepiece, a driving, exultant track that’ll have the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention almost immediately after the song starts, the music driven along by the excellent drumming of Joey Waters and wave upon wave of glorious rifferama from Page. Everything drops out midway to allow Waters and bassist Chris Tackett a little time together in the spotlight before Page returns with – you’ve guessed it- more sublime guitar work as the band hit perhaps their heaviest point of the album before returning to the deliciously layered vocal work which strangely brings to mind The Eagles in some subconscious way, before the band suddenly halt the maelstrom on the word ‘stop’. It’s a shock that the song ends this way, but effective nonetheless. Peace returns via the instrumental interlude that is The Last Psalm to Silence and then the album’s standout track is here… The Good Night Sky is pure bliss, west coast harmonies melding with chiming, ringing guitar melodies to produce one of the choruses of the year, deliriously memorable and absolutely demanding to be heard over and over again. Perfect pop.
Headlights follows this moment of auditory nirvana, seemingly on a hiding to nothing and with no chance of following such loveliness. Yet it does, simply because it doesn’t try to compete with what’s just gone before. Another superbly driving piece of rock music, resolutely modern thanks to the production smarts of Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Rush etc) yet also rooted firmly in the glory days of album rock, the spiralling, life-affirming solo that leads into yet another spine-tingling vocal towards the end of the song is another of the album’s highlights – although by now of course you’re realising that highlights is a relative word when absolutely everything on offer is captivating.
The album could stop here and be none the poorer, but there’s more; Black Wind is brooding, menacing and not unlike the sort of music Muse used to make, whilst closer All Good Things – clearly the band has a sense of humour! – brings the listener gently back down to earth, recalibrating the ears to normality and letting the pulse get back to something approaching safety.
From start to finish this album is never less than compelling, and there are times when you’ll be utterly swept up in the yearning grandeur of it all – I can’t recommend Beneath… highly enough.
Beneath the Dark Wide Sky is out now.