Dusk – Spectrums Review

How I came to pen this review is kind of a funny story. Upon entering our promo pit and undergoing de-lousing, this record was tagged as death doom. Whether that was an honest mistake or something more nefarious is an ongoing discussion. The advance material does tout a guest spot by Jaani Peuhu, briefly a member of death doom luminaries Swallow the Sun (more on that later), but Steel has also openly admitted he sometimes lays promo traps for unsuspecting writers to unwittingly claim metalcore. Spectrums, the debut full-length by Saudi one-man band Dusk, has nary a hint of death doom. I’ll give you one guess what it is. Here’s the thing, I’m not actually against metalcore in principle. In the mid to late nineties I cut my teeth on bands like Integrity, Shai Hulud and Zao. Back then metalcore was tough and unpredictable. Then sometime in the early aughts, Professor Utonium accidentally spilled a vial of My Chemical Romance X into the mix, creating the Power Puff Core lineage that tarnished the genre’s reputation for the next decade plus. Does Dusk avoid genre pitfalls? Do they harken back to tougher days, or, god forbid, move things forward?

I don’t want to lead you on. This is mostly in emo-infused metalcore territory, with sudden bouts of nasally, clean vocals and songs that wouldn’t be out of place soundtracking a Netflix animated show about teenagers with powers. That said, the way Spectrums is structured is a bit novel. Songwriter/guitarist/programmer Meshari Sangora, the lone Dusk member, has a background as a DJ with interests in EDM and hip hop. This finds its way into Spectrums, especially in the electronic beats heavy back half, but the album itself also employs no fewer than 10 guest vocalists, very much like a DJ record full of MC guest spots and collaborations. Musically, this ranges from straight metalcore (“Breath In, Breath Out Ft. Adnan Mryhi”) to slightly hardened electropop (“Celestials Ft. Iman Ahmed & Abdulrahman Elghazali”) and points in between. The scope in a single song can be wide, as on “Karma Will Find You Ft. Moe Steiger,” which starts as straight club music and ends as djenty deathcore, but Sangora manages to keep things sounding more cohesive than that looks on paper.

Despite a few highlights, which I’ll get to, a fatal flaw lies at the heart of Spectrums, and it’s baked right into how Sangora designed the album. The promo material talks a big game about how many people collaborated with their own visions and lyrics so that “…the average listener…experiences a full emotional journey.” It highlights how Dusk wanted a record that would bring together music fans of all stripes, and purposefully mixed genres to that end. In other words, this thing is a rambling 50-minute mishmash that lacks a point of view. Lyrics tend to fall into I HAVE VERY BIG FEELINGS WHICH I’LL CONVEY IN VAGUE TERMS territory (see “Digging Deeper Ft. Alex Hamilton”) while many of the songs come off as generic exercises in “aggressive” or “accessible.” “Hatred Ft. Alex Hamilton” is an example of the former, while the aforementioned collaboration with Jaani Peuhu, “Only You,” is a soft-cock attempt at radio ready electro-metal balladry.

Be all this as it may, it’s clear that Sangora is a talented musician and producer who can write an effective hook. “Breath In, Breath Out Ft. Adnan Mryhi” is a fist-pumping metalcore anthem with a big chorus over a melodic riff and progressive guitar flourishes. “Agnes Of Rome Ft. Abzy” makes the best use of guest vocals, featuring an almost sultry delivery that includes an especially affecting stretch in Arabic. The real standout is “Someone To Trust Ft. Jon Thomas,” which places a chillwave chorus with vocorder-like vocal filters in a metalcore frame that effectively fulfills the promise of Dusk’s electronica metal approach.

Death doom this is not. And while I was ultimately unimpressed by Spectrums as a whole, Meshari Sangora is a talented musician who is likely to find an audience for his slightly progressive, slick EDM metal. I’m a bit surprised to see metal from Saudi Arabia reaching this site but seeing the guest spots here by other Saudi and Kuwaiti musicians, it’s obvious there’s a community in the Middle East that deserves some exposure.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Released
Websites: dusk94.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/officaldusk94
Releases Worldwide: February 17th, 2023

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