After four years of waiting, Dredg’s follow up to 1998s Leitmotif has finally hit the stores. For those of you unfamiliar with the band, Leitmotif was one of the most artistic pieces of rock released in the past five years, a concept album so imaginative that every pressing of it was sold out until Interscope picked up the band and rereleased it. The hype for El Cielo has been enormous and the pressure of releasing another fantastic release is definitely there, especially amongst the die-hard fan base the band has accumulated.Simply put, El Cielo is music for the seasons and immediately establishes Dredg, once again, as a band to watch. It’s an album almost too good for the underground, laden with colorful guitar playing, tight drumming, driving bass and beautiful vocals. If anything, Dredg has reached a creative level in two releases that some musicians take years to develop: a sound that is uniquely theirs and almost indescribably beautiful. The influences on this record range all over the place: jazz drumming, emotional yet clear singing and the perfect syncopation of bass and guitar that few other bands (Radiohead and U2, as examples) can match. Like Leitmotif, this is another concept album. Instead of going in an entirely new direction, El Cielo feels like the awakening from the sleep/paralysis that the narrator was stuck in during Leitmotif and his encounters with other people. It is the response to Leitmotif, and each song corresponds with its respective journal entry and flows aurally with the words in it. This album is a reaction to the events of Leitmotif, and aurally is a reaction to Leitmotif as well: gone is the screaming, the grind of the guitars, the ambient noise. Songs are their own sonic journies that flow beautifully: guitars take on ambient personalities, bass and drum flow, and the likes. Pretty much every track is a keeper, while the Brushstrokes serve as interludes between each “movement” in the CD. I personally feel that a lot of pompous critics will deny this CD half of what it deserves, simply because it follows a lot of art rock ideas: a concept, a flow of songs, instrumentation… But instead of persecuted from, if any “established” band released an album as adventuresome as this one, it would be hailed with the regard of the more defining rock albums. This album is one of amazement: from the pounding rhythms of “Same Ole Road” to the increadible, spirit-lifting crescendos of “The Canyon Behind Her”, this CD is in my top 10 for the year, and possibly for the next 10 years.