Dredg’s _El Cielo_ is one of the most fascinating discs I have had the pleasure of hearing, and is, without a doubt, the best blind buy I’ve made in quite some time. Gavin Hayes has a wonderful palette of colors in his voice to paint the lyrics with. His voice, matched with the bands superb playing, makes it hard for the listener to not become completely enraptured within the music.
The overall mood of the album is one that takes the listener to a different state of mind. It’s a bit subdued while at the same time uplifting. The vocals throughout the album are haunting, yet soaring and almost spiritual at times. Hayes really reminds me of Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth at times (not to deter anyone that isn’t a fan of Opeth, because the sound of the band is nothing like the aforementioned band). The drummer, Dino Campanella, compromises very well; it seems as if he is very interested in tribal drumming, because it’s definitely reflective in his style. It is somewhat repetitive (in his bass drum and tom work), yet always fresh because he has the ability of adding small cymbal splashes and intricate ride cymbal work, throughout. I don’t want to make it sound like he’s uninspired, which is how that description came off. He’s incredibly tasteful and always fresh. The guitar work by Mark Engles is very atmospheric, as if to add another color, rather than to be a separate instrument, which is how everything on the album comes off sounding, same goes for the bass guitar work [Drew Roulette], it all melds together to form this wonderful sound that is, undeniably, Dredg. I can’t think of another band that sounds like them, and in this case, it is a wonderful thing. They are creating a sound that is truly unique, which isn’t an easy feat to tackle.
Each song could stand alone and sound fantastic, but one thing that really stands out on the the album is the use of instrumental sections to break up the core tracks of the album. They are instrumentals with the title “Brushstroke” and followed by a name. They range from electronica with some subtle voices, to playful drumming and delicate guitar work, to a middle eastern-tinged piece, and a simply breathtaking piece called “Brushstroke: Walk in the Park”. In its short-lived 1:33, it manages to be one of the most beautiful sections on the album. It’s made up entirely of strings, and a piano. It starts off with a delicate piano melody followed shortly by lovely strings, and as the piece flows on it grows ever so subtly, until the end, where it is comprised of dissonance and intensity, and then fades in a comfortable, ear pleasing chord to end. Each of them are as interesting as that, and I could go on for a long time just speaking about them, but I think you get the idea.
The first two real tracks on the album are beautiful. “Same Ol’ Road” has an intoxicating bass groove combined with playful drumming, and the piece does nothing but become more dynamic. Slowly building and at the climax the listener gets to hear Hayes’ haunting wails, “We must push on…” The track ends with Hayes’ singing a capella, as the piece seamlessly shifts into “Sanzen”, a very emotionally charged piece with haunting vocals and massive crescendos. Each song throughout is haunting in its own right, but always fresh and never leaving anything redundant. It’s infectious. “Whoa Is Me”, the second to last track, mixes a stale sounding trumpet at the beginning of the piece. It can be heard throughout the song, almost yearning, as if crying for help. Dredg also mixes a blatting saxophone, which is as out of place as it is welcome, showing yet another side to their already entirely diverse album. The piece concludes with a piano and two saxophones interplaying. “The Canyon Behind Her” is, without a doubt, the most jaw-dropping and utterly breathtaking album closer I’ve yet to hear. It starts off with a chilling piano melody, taking the listener to a desolate winter night where the wind is cutting. An overwhelming sense of coolness comes over me, and then the band cuts in, out of nowhere, followed shortly by Hayes’ haunting vocals. There are seriously incredible breakdowns throughout this entire piece, crescendos, decrescendos, beautiful interplay with the band and atmospheric guitar work that gives me chills just thinking about it. The final two minutes are glorious. Hayes vocals haven’t sounded better on the entire album, he soars, while backed by an entire choir. It ends with nothing but the choir. Breathtaking.
I feel as if I speak anymore about this album I will begin to do it injustice. This is an enthralling piece of work, and there truly isn’t an uninspired moment on the entire album. Essential.