Quality writing and highly emotive performances permeate the wrenching beauty, devastating agony, and induced anxiety that Emergence brings forth.
Even apart from genre preferences, there are many ways in which one can enjoy music. The moment-to-moment impact given by individual tracks of a good playlist, the long-form catharsis of a lofty concept thoughtfully built up, or even the honest engagement found in a simple riff or melody. One such as this that is difficult to effectively maintain – yet can hold some of the most impressionable moments for those who are open to it – is the expressive craft that wholly encompasses the listener and provides an experience that is holistic, rather than parts piecemealed. Think of music in which the tone or feeling you get from it is the defining part of the experience, instead specific moments or separate aspects.
More than perhaps any one particular element of the music, this enveloping sound will define your time with Dreadnought’s newest effort, Emergence. A continuous well of emotions, your fears and hopes laid bare as the music pulls at you to fall further in into a pit of despair and uninterrupted complacency. Each song fuels an anti-chrysallistic feeling, as if an overbearing overcast is pressing into every open space within your head. All the cloudbursts and gentle reprieves therein preying on your anxieties and leaving you feeling more than a little vulnerable. And the way it manages to accomplish all of this with its sound songwriting and excellent production choices seems so simple and effortless on the surface.
The record itself is only five tracks long, and in all cases, none of this time is wasted. “Besieged” leads the tracklist as well as the promotional charge for the album, marking the only single-friendly song in the traditional sense and artfully laying expectations for subsequent songs. “Still” dares you to breathe, marking a surprisingly short moment of beauty before you truly sink into the experience. Full emotive arcs define the final three tracks, all of which surpass the ten-minute mark and grip you thoroughly with dense tone and stellar musicianship. Separate arcs do little to mute the punishing consistency wrought through the seemingly perfect forty-six-minute runtime, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The way the music pulls you in is a great cases study for those really working at cutting their chops in the industry as a producer or mixer. A muffled, fuzz-laden tone dulls the riff-heavy guitar and bass work, creeping up the sides of the production and widening the soundstage. Sharp piano contrasts the agonizing, wrenching screams, smartly turned down in the mix, just daring you to listen closer. Soft female vocals are layered overtop in a near-casual half-spoken performance, a somber addendum adding further complexity to the mix. This is all tied together with incredible percussion full of technical flashes, emotional flourishes, and well-placed hesitation. Each aspect manages to find its own space despite the ensuing cacophony and intentional wall of sound that pervades much of record.
Among the complicated balance of production and songwriting are moments of brilliance on a more subjective, micro level. The choice of saxophone in “Pestilent”, the keys and loose flute peppered in “Tempered”, the unsettling synth near the opening of “The Waking Realm”, each track has something to cling to, something to uncover and appreciate even after many listens. If the earnest feeling the record brings forth wasn’t enough to drag me back, these wonderful moments of beauty among the tasteful wreckage would be more than enough.
Not all records that deserve the adjectives ‘phenomenal’ or ‘awe-inspiring’ will be seen as such by all who experience it. Emergence earns these labels through its thoughtful writing, beautifully agonizing performances, and wonderful production, but the inherent approach of its design as mentioned at the outset will mean that some simply cannot invest into the music. For those that are open to be enveloped by its skillfully induced discomfort and aural devastation though, Emergence is an experience that has few peers, and one that will doubtlessly end up on a few album of the year lists.