Album: House of Sand
Release Date: 19/08/2022
Location: London, UK
And the title for most stunning yet haunting album of 2022 thus far goes to Dawnwalker’s new opus House of Sand. This is in my opinion the band’s most powerful performance to date and should be a must listen for fans of post/prog metal.
House of Sand is a concept album focusing on the darkness that festers beneath the idyllic surface of suburbia. The themes actually make it one of the darker, more hard-hitting albums of the year. It touches on concepts of mental illness, agoraphobia, paranoia, regret, isolationism, and spiritual malaise. These themes are conveyed through both the album’s lyrical content and through short but haunting spoken word tracks.
Describing the album’s sound is no easy feat, there’s a lot at play here including elements of prog and post metal, chamber rock, indie and alternative rock and more. There’s an Opeth and Katatonia sort of feel to the release in the guitar tones and atmosphere used in parts, but then other segments sound completely different, taking on a softer, smoother tone. There’s a generally depressive energy present throughout though. Maybe depressing isn’t always the right word, but at the very least I would call it melancholic.
The vocals on the album are incredibly soothing, there’s a smoothness to them. At the same time though, they convey a huge amount of emotion, really drawing the listener into the whole experience. Ther are also occasional moments of brute force where harsh vocals explode out of the mix before fading back into it as if they had never been there to begin with.
It also may just be me but at select times the clean vocals somewhat remind of me Layne Staley in their delivery, in the way they convey emotion and tone. One song in particular has some Alice In Chains moments for sure and that happens to be one of my favourites on the album, False Doors. Yet the track also has some extremely Opethesque moments to it. This track is an absolute stunner and both relaxes and engages me simultaneously. I’ve also had the songs incredibly catchy chorus playing on repeat in my head.
On the topic of individual songs, I have to say that I appreciate the band’s choice to cover Elvis’s House of Sand, yet to have it still maintain the album’s running concept and theme. Not only that but it happens to tie in with the album’s title, having the same name. NOT ONLY THAT but the band have a part two track by the same name but this time having it perfectly capture the tone of the album as whole. The song also follows on from the melodies displayed on track 2 Demon of Noontide (another favourite track of mine) making them even drearier.
I also have to state how brilliantly tied into the album’s core concepts the idea of the Demon of Noontide is, its a concept dating back all the way to ancient times, even being referenced in the book of Psalms. Its a concept that ties into that dreaded sense of listlessness or as the Greeks called it acedia that comes with the general malaise of suburban existence.
As far as the spoken word tracks go they really add some haunting amtosphere to the mix and help to make the album that much more immersive and engaging. The content covered in these is truly haunting as can be seen on The Prisoner:
Someone has locked me in this godforsaken house
Or else… I mislaid the keys
Anyway, I’m alone here now
A prisoner in my own home
But an Englishman’s house is his castle
What do I care for them now?
Except for the ticking of that infernal clock
And the cackling of crows mocking from the gardens
They also display it perfectly on another spoken word track The Witness:
The situation is becoming untenable
I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others
We can no longer communicate
I have a desire to live in my own way
Away from prying eyes
And those fair-weather friends who would force their misery upon me
If I have to burn a few bridges then so be it
A bit of peace and quiet, that’s really all I need
“Peace, peace ! he is not dead, he doth not sleep !
He hath awakened from the dream of life.”
Overall, I have to say that I absolutely love this release and have had it playing on repeat since it was released. It really scratches the itch I’ve had for years since Opeth decided to start making average prog rock instead of groundbreaking metal. If you’re a progressive music fan that loves album’s with highly immersive atmosphere and core concepts, then this the album for you.