Preview by Mabh Savage
Release Date: 09/12/2013
Hailing from Italy, Dismal play music in a style dubbed as Gothic Steam, which is a new one on me. My initial assumption is that it means new stuff mixed with old, while still being depressing. I love being proved wrong.
This album is highly creative and intensely interesting. I should warn you right now, this is a very chilled out album; there will be no moshing to any of this, or even stomping of the feet. However, if you are after something to wind down to after a hectic day, or with a hangover from the gig the night before, this album accommodates your pain while still nurturing your dark side.
The closest comparison I could make is maybe Massive Attack (Teardrop era); the same gentle, vibrant vocals, and ‘tick tock’ beats that although they stem from the electronic, morph into memories of heartbeats and something more sinister. But Dismal are more organic than this, melding the mechanical with soaring strings, tentative piano and unidentifiable noises that float around the production, tickling at the senses.
After the first track, The Four Vibrations, I was expecting a typical concept album, one track flowing smoothly into the next, in the same neo-classical style as it started in; yet again I am surprised. Each track is a very definite individual. Some are in English; some are in Italian. Some are instrumental. Some have spoken word. Some are definitely structured as ‘songs’. Some are less formal. The label describes their overall sound as a limbo which brings you to a mental carnival. There is certainly that aspect of weirdness which is naturally associated with the freakish circus, yet these tracks seem a little more intimate than that to me; perhaps the ravings of one madman, rather than a three ring trip.
Track 7, Mélisse (part 2) is a perfect example of the strange juxtapositions of styles within this album. The track starts with a vocal style that could be straight out of a thirties musical, then moves into an anthemic section that reminds of Nightwish, then becomes almost industrial. The album ends on a high of confident, perfect vocals and something happens that is so rare, I can’t quite believe it: I want to put the album on again. Immediately.
I don’t think this quite makes it to 5 stars simply because it’s so chilled that it’s hard for me to feel really fired up by it, although it certainly stirs the emotions at some level. What this album has accomplished is making me want to raid the record shops for the Dismal back catalogue (they’ve been going since 1997!) and see how they got to this point; gorgeous, darkly dangerous and certainly not ‘dismal’ by anyone’s standards.