It’s strange, how the metal scene embraces certain genres as one of its own, enabling said genre to become “metal adjacent” and enjoy a somewhat wider audience in the long-term. Genres such as synthwave, shoegaze or dreampop, post-punk – all have a solid following from fans of much more extreme music and there’s surely an interesting study within that somewhere, one that is much more clever than the point at hand here which is that Nothing is one such example of this support. Released via Relapse Records which is ostensibly a metal label, The Great Dismal is a record that is carried by a weight that is larger than the huge towers of sound that Nothing create on their fourth full-length.
Having undergone a staggering amount of line-up shifts, intense personal issues (frontman Domenic Palermo was in prison for two years following an attempted murder charge) and label changes, Nothing have come through the worst of what life could throw at them and just prior to the world shifting on its axis at the beginning of 2020, had written The Great Dismal. Recorded during the lockdown period and permeated with ideas of the unknown, fear, misanthropy and negativity, the album begins on the utterly melancholic tones of “A Fabricated Life,” a song which takes you down a path of regret and hopelessness of shoegaze and spits you out into the heady guitar of “Say Less,” a song which spins the album into much more bombastic territory.
This turn into heavier movements is a stark contrast and one almost has the feeling that the softer, dreamier opening track is a route Nothing should go down more often in the future. The beauty of the pain in that first song is so tangible, the isolation so clearly real, that the shock of “Say Less” lasts far past its closing and well into the ethereal notes of Palermo’s voice on “April Ha Ha.” The song is still bound by the weight of its predecessor but lifted by the vocal lines that drift in and out of comprehension and given dimension by the fuzzy guitars and echoing solos.
“Famine Asylum” feels like a lost 90s early emo song with heightened imagery, guitar inflections that call to mind The Smashing Pumpkins at times and a sadness that simmers just below the surface, waiting for someone to reach in and pull it from the darkness to give it life and light. This is a trick that Nothing pull many times on The Great Dismal; songs are given the scope to potentially fall completely off the deep end, become entrenched in the current and be swept away yet the band always bring them back to some semblance of light. “Famine Asylum” builds towards a beautiful guitar crescendo where the clear tones radiate hope while “In Blueberry Memories” pushes cascading post-metal into a song that seeks the ultimate paradise. It’s wonderfully rendered in bittersweet melodies and whispering vocals and the song is a distinct highlight on the record.
The Great Dismal is a record that is made for lonely mornings reflecting on the week before and trying to comprehend how to get through the week ahead. It’s built on a foundation of horror – for the world outside and for the self – and as it makes its way through lush soundscapes, haunting beauty, heavy electric guitars and dreamy vocals, the record starts to reveal a small, out of reach sliver of light to work towards. Perhaps, one day, hope will become reality.
7.5 / 10
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