I’ve begun this year somewhat jaded. I’m not feeling the negativity in the same way as at 2016’s end but I’m disgruntled at many things. January failed to impress me musically and I selected a couple of promos for bands with which I’m unfamiliar, in the hope that I’d experience the joy of the unknown excellence. Dool‘s debut album, Here Now, There Then, promised to at least be something with note-worthy subject matter: the enigmatic blurb on their website describes an exploration of the seediness of their hometown of Rotterdam through the medium of “dark rock.” But my reactions to music in recent times requires quality to pique my interest. A sincere dearth of quality could even work as those albums are entertaining to tear down. But you can’t submit to me an average album. Those encourage my ennui and I’ll only be sadly despondent in response. No-one ever bought an album on such grounds. So how does my first review of the new year fare?
This ‘dark rock’ tag basically amounts to something between hard rock and doom metal. While some tracks bridge these styles, the opening duo of “Vantablack” and “Golden Serpents” adopt these sounds separately. “Vantablack” is a bold opener as the longest and darkest track with thick doomy chords. It has that moroseness one would expect of the genre but it, unfortunately, manifests with more lethargy than ominousness and more dreariness than atmosphere. It struggles to justify its length and retain the listener’s focus which becomes a problem evident through a lot of the album. However, it’s contrasted by the relative jauntiness and immediacy of “Golden Serpents,” the combination with which demonstrates the range of sound used by Dool as a whole. This one is fresher and melodic which makes for a more engaging listen.
The remaining tracks essentially fall between these 2 though none are as good as “Golden Serpents.” By “Oweynagat” around the middle of Here Now, There Then, I was irritated by the frustrating tendency of writing songs which feature all the better guitar licks and memorable vocal parts in their first half while either repeating these or dragging out monotonous simplicity over their second. It ensures that no song is completely satisfying. “Vantablack” and “Oweynagat” are particular victims to this but it’s annoyingly prevalent. “The Death of Love” is an exception and unsurprisingly one of the few highlights. The heavy and emotive climax re-energizes the song and demonstrates why this is a lazy song-writing technique.
As for other positives, I do like the almost funky feel in a few of the guitar passages. The band cites 3 guitarists so I couldn’t say who it is but there’s a fairly unique style of play in these moments which suggest to me a single player. “Golden Serpents” and “Words on Paper” incorporate such parts and they’re far better than the standard atmospheric rock guitars more typically employed. Otherwise, the instrumentation is competent if unremarkable much like the majority of this music and the bland production aesthetic. Here Now, There Then isn’t fundamentally terrible but neither is it sufficiently enthusing to even somewhat recommend.
Despite the positives I know I won’t return to any of this album. It has 3 tracks bridging decent and good but also has 7 bridging sub-par and forgettable. Dool attempted to forge an intriguing examination of Rotterdam’s underbelly but it’s the upbeat material which is most effective and the rest is painfully average. My 2017 apathy remains.