It’s been four albums and about ten years for these reformed hardcore dudes turned post-shoegazers, and the thing is, they keep getting better with every record. The Great Dismal is another shot of downbeat anthems, rife with themes of isolation, extinction and human behavior, giving extra heft by the present times we are living in.
In fact, they recorded it, just as the pandemic hit, with Will Yip, in their hometown of Philadelphia. This one feels extra-despondent and tortured, which could be a product of the times. Though, it also must be said that Yip captures their sound perfectly, so you feel every salvo of fuzz when they lay on the distortion pedals. Plus, the drums hit extra hard and with more clarity than on past recordings. This added clarity means you feel their darkness, even more so than on past albums.
Guitarist/vocalist Domenic Palermo has said that the title, “refers to a swamp, a brilliant natural trap where survival is custom fit to its inhabitants. The nature of its beautiful, but taxing environment and harsh conditions can’t ever be shaken of forgotten too easily”. He’s not kidding, this album has a certain dark vibe about it, that is real and palpable. The music and lyrics totally reflect this darkness, which makes sense given the year we’ve had, and when it was recorded.
“Say Less” is a dose of downbeat invective shot through with fuzz, while “April Ha Ha” lays on the fuzz a little more heavily, sounding at times like an even more downbeat, and less pretentious, Smashing Pumpkins. “In Blueberry Memories” and “Blue Mecca” are late album highlights, achieving a perfect balance between their lighter and heavier sides. In fact, many of the songs on this album manage to strike this balance quite well. Closer, “Ask The Rust” ends this album on an even more downbeat note.
The Great Dismal is a perfect album for the times we are living in. Though, its themes of isolation, extinction and human behavior, could be as pertinent two years ago as they are today. But, they feel a bit more pertinent right now. The times give them a more urgent feeling. While this album might bum you out, it will also provide a pretty decent catharsis, and that’s all we can ask for from this kind of music.
The Great Dismal is an artistic high point for the band, even if it is quite downbeat. It’s easily one of the best rock albums of the year.
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