Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dead Blue Sky - 2001 Symptoms of an Unwanted Emotion

Band : Dead Blue Sky
Album : Symptoms of an Unwanted Emotion
Release Year : 2001
Genre : Melodic | Metalcore | Darkcore

Tracklist :
1. Beneath The Autumn Sun
2. Essence Of Creation
3. To Live In Dreams
4. When Time Was Time & Life Was Breath
5. Holding Yesterday For Ransom
6. My Sadness Has No Seasons
7. Ghost In The Melody
8. Reminder Of These Heartless Days, A
9. Ascension Of Beauty
10.Symptoms Of An Unwanted Emotion

Dead Blue Sky released only one CD and then disappeared into the mist of obscure bands. A simplistic description of the music would be melodic death metal with black metal overtones and a touch of classic emo- no, not the emo that exists today, but the more seminal sound that came about in the early to mid-1990’s with bands like Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate. There isn’t much of that influence here, not enough to peg DBS as an emo band or even anything close, but anyone familiar with that era of music will hear bits and pieces of it sprinkled throughout the CD, most notably in how the songs build and release. The music also recalls the sound of [i]Beyond Hypothermia[/i]-era Cave In with tumbling guitar harmonies and raw, under-produced grittiness.

The album begins with soft vocals over an acoustic guitar before lurching into the tragic-sounding opening song, [i]Beneath The Autumn Sun[/i]. Imagine your world falling apart, just crumbling in your hands as you watch helplessly. This song evokes that feeling as the guitars shred over a slow, droning drum beat. Juxtaposition seems to be a common musical theme on this album, and it’s present in almost every song. The third track, [i]To Live In Dreams[/i], showcases their ability to build a song to an incredible, thundering climax, and then, like a star after a supernova, what remains is just the hint of the song in the form of several overlaid acoustic guitars with a stark, atmospheric keyboard carrying the melody.

The vocals alternate between black metal growling and feminine-sounding male falsetto clean vocals. While it may sound unappealing on paper, it actually works quite well, as the falsettos are very soft. The clean vocals only appear about 15% of the time, and the throaty, Carcass-like growl stomps through the flowing, free-falling melodies for most of the album. The drums, while not perfectly performed, are played with a passion I’ve not heard on many recordings, especially post-2000. There are no triggers and no studio wizardry. It’s one man and his drums bashing with the raw emotion that the music taps into. At the end of the song [i]Holding Yesterday For Ransom[/i], the music drops into an acoustic interlude, but drummer Matt Thomas builds into it with a double bass run that shoots through the soft lullaby, triggering rough vocals over what should be a placid end to the song. It wouldn’t work with an overproduced sound, but with the vibe this album has, it’s believable and does not come off as contrived.

This recording, thematically, is so much an embodyment of what could have been. The concepts of sadness and regret, a longing for the past, or a present that was hoped for but never realized, could be communicated here without vocals. The music alone is sufficient enough to communicate that. It’s bleak, barren, and seemingly only alive in the imagination of the listener. Truly, the band’s sound is perfectly described by the name of the band. It’s well-executed and well written, and is one of the few releases where the flaws actually add to the overall atmosphere of the album.

I have few complaints about this release. I still enjoy listening to it years after it was released. At times I wish the drums would have been a little tighter. The bass is pretty much not there, which isn’t surprising given the black/melodeath sound DBS aims for. Still, it would have been nice to hear some low end. Also, the one thing that’s bothersome is that there is always a lead or melody going on with the guitars, and there are few straight out rhythm breaks. It makes the songs run together and it’s really easy to hear one song, leave the room, come back 10 minutes later and you won’t know that it’s a new track. That isn’t helped by the way they avoid typical song structures and seldom repeat riffs or verses. Depending on your taste that’s either good or bad. I am a fan of it when bands can pull it off, and DBS definitely does. If you like bands like (old) Cave In, Agalloch, Prayer For Cleansing, Converge, or Zao (Blood and Fire-era), this might be worth a listen or two if you can track it down.

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