Dool – Summerland Review

Poor Summerland. Dool’s latest album has been picked up and dropped in the promo bin more times than I’ve had hot meals, and it looks like it’s finally found a home with me. First El Cuervo toyed with it, but after remembering how bored he was with their first album, he tossed it aside with disdain. Who else but GardensTale was there, drooling like a starving puppy, ready to take his shot at it. But it was not to be. Then along came poor old Huckles, late to the party, with nothing but Dool and a dozen black metal albums to choose from. Well, the only black metal I like is the Venom album, so the choice was clear. Who says beggars can’t be choosers?

After reading El_C’s review of Here Now, There Then, I was in no rush to check that album out, so I came to Summerland with fresh ears (where have you heard that before) but tempered expectations. Those expectations were exceeded with the opening track “Sulphur & Starlight,” which bestows upon us a fantastic melody and the catchiest chorus of the year. I’ve been walking around the house for weeks during this isolation period, randomly calling out “Hey – when will you stop pouring starlight over me?” much to the chagrin of my partner. It’s a song that immediately draws you into the album, and it made me wring my hands in glee, thinking I’d pulled one over on my AMG pals. As with many of the songs on Summerland, there’s a slight Sisters of Mercy vibe, although less goth and more dynamic.

Dool proclaim themselves purveyors of dark rock, and that’s most exemplified in the two excellent closing tracks, “Be Your Sins” and “Dust & Shadow.” The former is a driving almost-metal song with a simple, memorable hook. In a way it reminds me of Sabbath Assembly’s “The Serpent Uncoils,” with its mystical groove. And “Dust & Shadow” is an eight-minute exercise in melancholic doom. Both songs show off the side of Dool I came here for. Add in the unique “God Particle,” with its off-kilter acoustic intro and floating guitars atop a wandering bass line which leads into menacing verses, and you’ve got the makings of half a great album. If only the other songs stood up as well: sadly, it seem that every other song on Summerland is simply filler.

Ryanne van Dorst’s vocal style and inflections remind me of a more subdued version of Coheed and Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez – perhaps an odd reference, but these are odd times. It’s an effective style though, lending the songs a touch more mystical captivation than a more conventional voice might. She’s undeniably the draw of the band, vocally and personality-wise – in fact, prior to Dool she operated as Elle Bandita for ten years. This serves to elevate the strong songs to another level, and perhaps also allows the band to get away with some weaker material – basically half the album. It sounds glorious, the plaintive, echoing guitars and pristine drums, but the quality of songwriting ebbs and flows from track to track.

Summerland isn’t particularly dark, and while not every song hits the mark, there’s nothing bad here. Dool have crafted an album their fans may love, and there are a few songs here I’ll definitely be coming back to, but it’s not enough to make me yearn for more. Constantly moving from moody and gripping to light and unremarkable fails to draw the listener into the album. van Dorst delivers a stellar performance throughout, which perhaps saves some of the nondescript material, but overall Summerland is an album that passes by with only slight ripples.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Prophecy
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: April 10th, 2020

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