Even before Sunbather set off a scene-cred melee best likened in both intensity and contrivance to the Hedley Lamarr goons/Rock Ridge citizens brawl in Blazing Saddles, post-black metal was no spring chicken. James Kelley of Altar of Plagues suggested that the band’s change of direction on Teethed Glory and Injury was at least in part due to boredom with a stagnant scene and despite the downright bacterial rate at which post-black metal bands spawn, I can think of very few remarkable records in the style that have come out in recent years. Master of Muppets is sure to take umbridge with that, but he can just take that with that as well, as I try to grab one of these albums every once in a while just to spare him the shame of overrating it. And here it is: Joyless Euphoria’s Dreaming in Ultraviolet.
Dreaming in Ultravoilet is no Cloak of Ash, but it’s also not a catastrophe. Slow-moving compositions like “Shoreline” drape graceful, wide melodies across their surfaces, tempering a certain sunniness with rough rasps. Clean vocal themes in “The Orator” and “The Rotary” provide welcome texture and add depth to the album’s placidity, as does the latter song’s subtle saxophone use. Almost everything in this record seems a level removed from the surface, as if heard through a pink haze. The coherence of this phenomenon is Dreaming in Ultraviolet’s greatest strength; the album feels considered and composed around this atmosphere.
Joyless Euphoria also wisely place their strongest compositions and best ideas at the ends of the album. “Dissociation” and “About Me” are the record’s most intense songs and their hardened peaks serve to keep all of that pink haze confined between them. They also keep first and last impressions of the album positive. They’re faster moving and, though not catchy, at least engaging. It’s a rare post-black metal album I hear that fails to totally bore me but Dreaming in Ultraviolet uses its time well enough and gets out of the way before it becomes tiresome. After several listens, though, I’m not convinced that the record is really worth listening to again. Joyless Euphoria follow the post-black instructions and don’t let their ego get in the way of formula, but their conservatism results in a pretty bland offering.
The greatest failing of this record is a simple lack of ambition. I’m sure the band have plenty of motivations for creating music and plenty of motivations for creating it in this specific style. But Dreaming in Ultraviolet doesn’t seem to have much to say. It’s a collection of inoffensive blackgaze songs with little apparent motivation beyond their own existence. It’s a sleepy little album that even seems quiet in its experimentation, never advancing challenging ideas or exploring past this little valley of its own creation. It’s safe and it feels safe, though not tired so much as carefree. It’s as if Joyless Euphoria wrote this on a lazy Sunday morning to pass the time. It quite simply lacks the will to power.
While the post-black metal style isn’t getting any younger or more inventive, it’s also such a part of the metal landscape now that it’s hard to ignore. Joyless Euphoria take a healthy stab at its sleeve-worn heart with Dreaming in Ultraviolet, and they succeed in drawing blood. As a healthy skeptic of the style, I can’t see myself spinning the album in the future, but to those more easily enticed by the Alcestuous arts the album makes a strong candidate for addition to a large post-black metal collection. It’s light on melodrama, heavy on atmosphere, and even shows a bit of personality at times. Yet it’s hard to see anyone—even our very own felt-cushioned blackgaze correspondent—loving the album or singling it out for particular quality.