Dreariness characterise themselves as playing depressive black metal, which is, regardless of their intention, an offence. This genre designation is generally reserved for bands like Xasthur and Leviathan, which are musical projects headed by individuals who feel their only way to cope with life is to sing of despair. Equating these lyrical and musical expressions of utter hopelessness with the work of Dreariness—which is largely rooted in the sound of shoegaze and dream pop—is definitely doing a disservice to the men and women who flee into utter darkness in order to stay alive. Call this a severe dramatisation, but conceptually Fragments encompasses an intricate expression of longing for human contact, whereas depressive black metal is generally made to express misanthropy and a wish to be as far away from people as possible.
RELEASE DATE: 20 November 2016 LABEL: Nostalgia Productions
That is not to say that Dreariness are fraudulent or all play-pretend. Songs like In the Deep of Your Eyes and the 16 minute-long Catharsis should convince the listener otherwise. Fragments unmistakably references elements from black metal within its moody blend of screamo and shoegaze. The combination of double pedal-drumming and glistening guitars makes for a very pleasant sound that puts the listener in a sentimental mood right away.
This mood mainly gets its content from the lyrics, which are written inside the (digital) booklet in singer Tenebra’s curious handwriting. These lyrics are reminiscent of the über sentimental poems that some girls write in high school, which is undoubtedly sincere and corresponding to their own feelings, but which feel inflated to any outsider who reads it. Fragments talks of lovers long lost and far away, as far as the stars and outer space, of cutting and of sewing up the cuts, of goodbyes and of unanswered prayers. It would all be very laughable if not for Tenebra’s gut-wrenching voice that lends these overblown words a power beyond persuasion. Read the lyric-booklet and you might be laughing, but listen to Dreariness and you might as well end up crying (if you’re the crying sort of person).
Tenebra’s screams are exquisitely performed. She sings with abandon, which gives her long and drawn-out exclamations the air of the animalistic. Her clean vocals are less expressive, as they are carried out with an indie-rock nonchalance, instead of with a full singing voice. This makes them not altogether unconvincing, and even attractive in some manner.
Fragments displays a strong concept and atmosphere, which is further built upon by No Temporary Dreams, which juxtaposes the album’s seemingly juvenile subject matter with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60. This poem of similar dramatic atmosphere shows Dreariness to be standing upon a tradition of literature that not only encompasses one of Britain’s greatest poets, but also a multitude of New World writers like Delmore Schwartz and Edgar Allen Poe.
The only thing that keeps this record from perfecting its atmosphere is the drumming. Percussionist Torpor seems unable to refrain from hitting his cymbals at gracelessly high frequencies, which creates an uneasy racket in the background during the slower or more quiet parts. It doesn’t stand out too much, so it’s only a minor issue here, but once resolved, it should greatly increase the effectiveness of Dreariness’ music.
With Fragments, Dreariness lets you settle deep into the gloom. After this hour-long record you will feel all but emotionally drained. Fragments is a thorough exercise in expressing sadness and romantic loss, which will not leave any fan of emo or blackgaze alike untouched. An impressive sophomore cut!