Sound: The boys from the Dread are back and they're at it again, with plenty of new tricks up their sleeves (not to mention members). With former guitarist Andy Chandler departing the band and the bestial Ross McDougall taking his place, fans of Molest The Episcopate will instantly notice the influence McDougall has had on the songwriting for "Embers In The Spiritless Void". Not to say that In Dread Response have headed straight for the deathcore scene, in fact it's quite the contrary. For the most part, they've stayed true to their atmospheric, climactic style that has set them far apart from bands in New Zealand and abroad to the extent of even resuscitating older songs from their now archaic 2007 EP "In The Arms Of The Absurd". However, the band has not shied away from experimentation. And like any good experiment, they've come across some pleasing concoctions.
The opening track "Awaken The Deadlights" is a daring introduction into the album. With Trajan's ambient guitars and clever orchestrations giving soft welcome, indeed it takes off where "From The Oceanic Graves" left countless breathless listeners. The track also features the newly formed ten-man strong "Dreadchoir", whose voices drowned out by an excessive amount of reverb give off the impression of an army preparing for an apocalyptic war. The track is thrown off however, by a more straightforward groove unheard of in any of the band's previous work. After listening to the remainder of the album, it becomes clear that this new style is a precursor of Corey's influence on the band's songwriting which might be an unwelcome change for some.
"Through Chasms" is a standout thrash track that really defines how well Ross and Corey have fit in into the band. Ross presents himself with a more than prominent whammy solo that fits well into the Dread style, and a strong tremolo that replicates Andy's proficiency effortlessly. Corey essentially drums like he's afraid to slow down. However, songs like "Tortured Vocation" show that he's perfectly capable of titanic grooves that are more suited to the sake of the music. Although his style may be different from former drummer Alex Bird, Corey does have his impressive moments. Songs such as "Magnolia" show Corey making a valiant effort to keep up with the complex structure of Trajan's songwriting, and after repeated listens, one can come to the conclusion that his performance is only partially let down by production issues that, at times, couldn't properly communicate what Corey was trying to achieve.
The band has not lost the original touch that they achieved from their debut album. Tracks from their previous EP such as "A Dying Light" and "Forgotten Wasteland" are filled to brim with the old In Dread Response, the latter of which even includes an atmospheric bridge filled with clean guitars and a string section that's reminiscent of post-rock bands like Explosions In The Sky. It's truly in these sections that we see the musical genius of Trajan Schwencke, whose brutal riffs and memorable solos are matched by his grand orchestral visions that complement the band so well.
As well as having scores of songs written in the vein of their debut album, "Embers In The Spiritless Void" comes with a number of tracks that see the Dread dipping their fingers into various influences to create songs in styles not usually expected by the melodic death metal group. The standouts being "La Fin Absolue Du Monde", a beautiful guitar instrumental with bassist Steve Boag putting down the four-string and shining through with an emotionally striking guitar solo; and "Multiplex", where the band has incorporated a tremendous breakdown into their style that would put most metalcore bands to shame. Multiplex itself is obvious evidence of McDougall's influence on the band's song writing, not to mention a result of the band playing with a multitude of metal/deathcore bands whilst touring in support of "From The Oceanic Graves". Needless to say, this album isn't short of surprises that are bound to leave listeners dumbfounded. // 7
Lyrics: Trajan also makes a surprise appearance on vocal duties on a number of tracks on the album as well, serving a refreshing edge to In Dread Response's sound with the shock of a wild and untamed hardcore scream. However, his vocals only make a brief appearance and leave the listener wishing there were more frequent appearances over the span of the entire album. This is not to say that Sean's lead vocals have become tiresome to the listener. In fact, Sean O'Kane Connolly is arguably the member of the band that has developed the most since "From The Oceanic Graves". His vocal style has become stronger, finds far more variation, and has become comparably more consistent than the efforts shown on previous material. Fans will be shocked as he goes lower than ever and gives a frightening stand out performance on doom metal-esque "The Pendulous Blade".
Comparisons between the revived EP songs and the new content also mark a striking lyrical maturation since the band's early beginnings. Sean has graduated away from more personally attached writing and has moved on to comment on the matters of the world. "Tortured Vocation" depicts the world completely ravaged and covered in plumes of ash and poison, an obvious comment on the Earth being subjected to abuse and pollution from mankind; while "Multiplex" sneers at those enslaved by the world's heartless pleasures. And what In Dread Response record would be complete without a song based on astrology and Greek mythology? The esoteric Apophis tends to all that. // 8
Overall Impression: When I lifted the CD from my copy of the album, my eyes were instantly drawn to the words lying underneath: "Rise morning star! For we have become the war". Indeed, they have become that war so delicately illustrated in the artwork. After having dealt with the struggle to even commence this follow up to their debut album, they have conquered their battles and expectations, and arisen victorious with all its spoils and glory. For an album that was stated as a struggle to commence, the band has produced an impressive effort to hold under their belts. This stalwart record has offerings of soaring guitar solos, brutal vocals, and headbanging galore. One can only remain thankful that they did not abandon what separated them from other bands the most, their beautiful and majestic orchestrations.
After repeated listens to the album, I have come to the conclusion that the album (much like their debut) is similar to a movie. Anyone can have their select few favourite songs, but they would not be left with the same drained yet satisfied feeling after experiencing the build ups and climaxes of the whole album from start to finish. With the introduction of new members Ross McDougall and Corey Friedlander, many would have questioned whether "Embers In The Spiritless Void" would stand true to the unique sound that In Dread Response have done so well to achieve. It has. Whether it holds a candle to the monstrous album that is "From The Oceanic Graves" however, is up to the listener entirely. // 8