Through the years Californian outfit dredg have developed a rabid underground following buoyed by ambitious touring and a commitment to extending their musical offerings into the realm of art. As such the group have also maintained a distinct mystique, be it through the intricate layering of their sonic meanderings, their ear for unorthodox instrumentation, or even their painting endeavors. Still, some felt that this very mystique was shattered with their last studio release, 2005's "Catch Without Arms", an effort that often came off like a concession to appease to their then label, Interscope Records.
With countless tours under their belts, their own ILG imprint label Ohlone Recordings established and a lack of any direct external pressure to influence them, the band have returned with an album that answers only to themselves and we the listeners are better off for it. A dynamic breadth of wandering emotion is expressed, vulnerabilities and insecurities are laid bare and the songs, while intelligent and epically crafted, feel almost entirely heartfelt.
The included handful of progressive interludes and segues further broaden the expansive aural journey and thanks to their brevity, feel like a compelling part of the album, connecting each song together. No longer strictly adhering to the melodic rock format, the group once again embrace a gamut of musical styles from ambient drum n' bass to avant garde prog rock, even going so far as to throw in some traces of funk and 80's synth pop. In fact, the only discernible direct influence, or at least comparison, can be made to that of early U2 during the groups more focused moments.
Yes this can lead to some commercial pandering, with songs like "Information" sounding a bit too saccharine and predictable to really captivate. But thankfully they are in the minority as the band intertwine these banal moments of clarity with dense, engulfing instrumentation and unconventional song craft ripe with colorful zeal. Be it haunting or heartwarming, the depth and emotional investment the group have put into these tracks make them effortlessly organic yet ridiculously engaging.
Hyperbole aside, this album is not likely to win over those already not converted by the bands past works, but it will surely bring back those who discounted them after "Catch Without Arms". Few outfits are this capable of such lush sonic exploration while still sounding selflessly humble and inviting. In a world where Mastodon's spacey LSD fueled realm of hyperactive prog rock has begun to break mainstream territory; dredg have taken an Psilocybin-like earthen approach, that while no less hallucinogenic, proves that one needn't leave the planet to go to bold new places.
(4 / 5)