Imagine staring into the unknown, into a large void of space where there’s nothing to look forward to, nothing there to embrace. It may not be as hard to think about in this day and age, considering the circumstances that we’re all in lately.
The latest release from Philadelphia’s shoegazers Nothing evokes this exact same feeling. The Great Dismal captures this idea both sonically and conceptually. Frontman Domenic Palermo used the picture of a black hole as an inspiration to this whole project, and it’s staggering to see how much the feeling matches their sound.
There’s a strong dynamic of soft and loud in this record. Smashing waves of distorted guitars fight against subdued strings and ethereal vocals. Each song segment dedicates itself to one idea, before crashing on to the next in a push-and-pull motion that bombards the senses. The band manages this with layers of guitars and masterfully conjured effects. The result is an otherworldly landscape in three dimensions, with the highs baffling in its size and the lows pulling you into the depths.
“A Fabricated Life”, the opening track, serves as the only completely tranquil song of the record. It stands against the rest of its peers as a quiet onlooker, filled with wondrous strings and icy reverb. It’s as if the band primes the listener for the oncoming launch to the void.
“Say Less” immediately follows and the first bombardment starts. Imagine a rock song played inside an industrial complex — one that’s being battered by a howling typhoon. This auditory overwhelm is the perfect match to a song that tries to cope with the noise of the outside world. The apocalyptic “Famine Asylum” is a more traditional banger reminiscent of guitar effect wizards such as NIN, Hum and Deftones. In it, Palermo wrestles with existence and its self-destructive nature: “Send the bombs / We’ve had enough of us / Face the facts / Existence hurts existence”.
These songs are great on their own, but in tracks where the band stretches the limits of these ideas is where they truly shine. “Bernie Sanders” shares ghostly riffs with gritty power cords. “In Blueberry Memories” starts dreamy and blissful — with shimmering strings and airy vocals, yet it clashes with a large ocean of pounding guitars and drums. In these tracks the band manages to find a midpoint, where both elements share the same space without drowning each other out, and it’s in these moments that their craftsmanship really shines.
I’ve haven’t heard a lot of records execute on their concept quite as well as Nothing has in The Great Dismal. As a result I find myself completely enamored by what new blend of sound each new track offers. The band has proven themselves to be masters of their genre and vision. This is a record that should not be missed.