interview the entirety of Denver progressive-doom outfit Dreadnought last July, there was one sentiment in particular that continued to stick with me. It's perhaps the closest thing I've ever heard a band personally divulge in an interview that best embodied the often blanket descriptor of "progressive." They operate under the ethos of "best sound wins." The label of the music is arbitrary as long as it vibes well with all of the members. After hearing doom guitars along with saxophones, flutes, keys, and clean vocals mixed with black metal shrieks, one can't deny that the band doesn't walk the walk in terms of owning this ideology. But the bar was set high with the band's prior release. 2017's A Wake in Sacred Waves intertwined the aforementioned stylings with melodic hooks that kept the experience as catchy as it was mesmerizing. Whenever a band releases what feels like their opus, however, one can't help but immediately wonder what the next step is going to be for them. The next step for Dreadnought is Emergence, an album that sees the band evolve their craft by letting all of their core-elements loose in a free-flowing expansion.
The liberated nature of Emergence makes it come across as the aural equivalent of a fever dream. Many different things are happening, often simultaneously, but in a way that each pivot-point ties together a vaguely familiar thread. The vocals of Kelly Schilling are as varied as ever. One moment may bring screeching howls while the next may be attempting to lull you into a state of sedation. The rest of the band's instrumentation follows suit by also cycling through an array of diversified tempos and styles. The ablum's slower, softer sections focus on phased-out guitar sustain along with either a flute, saxophone, keyboard melody, or any combination thereof to give the oncoming segments of loud distortion more weight and power. The heavier sections that do follow take on a cacophonous form. Guitars, keys, and drums all swirl together in crashing waves of distortion that don't follow any prescribed formula. I usually go into more track specific details, but doing so would miss the point of Emergence. Immediately contradicting myself, though, I will mention that "Pestilent" is the stand-out. Sandwiched between the mirror images of "Besieged" and "Tempered," it brings together all of these components into one twelve minute long epic that is fierce, beautiful, and deeply satisfying.
Even though it may not supplant A Wake in Sacred Waves for me, Emergence is a vital benchmark for Dreadnought. By continuing to run with their forward-thinking approach of bringing together both black and doom metal, the band continues to create new boundaries for not only themselves but the progressive metal genre as a whole. It doesn't pull any punches, doesn't compromise and is all the better for it. It's safe to say that the best sounds won.