Wills Dissolve – Echoes Review and Album Premiere

It’s one thing to be able to premiere a big, well-known band whose album everyone is looking forward to and who are guaranteed sales in the… Well, this day and age, sales in the thousands are pretty impressive. But there’s something entirely more satisfying to be able to break a very promising young band to the public. Now, fair is fair, Wills Dissolve’s new album Echoes is their second outing, not their first, but it is the first under an actual label. Plus, when that label is one with the reputation of Hypnotic Dirge, you know you’ve got something special coming.

The single-song album is an art unto itself. I am not a musician, but I can imagine the entire flow of writing changes. How do you balance unity and variety? How often do you bring back certain motifs? Is it even possible to have something resembling a chorus? Questions that undoubtedly plagued Wills Dissolve during the writing and recording of their sophomore album Echoes, a cosmically-themed slab of progressive metal that doesn’t stop until it’s done. Releasing the 28th of August, Hypnotic Dirge has graciously given us the chance to show the full journey through the depths of Adam Burke-rendered orange-pink space early, and we wouldn’t be doing that if this wasn’t a spectacular quest of epic proportions, so take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

Single-track albums are concept albums by their very nature, and Echoes uses the format to tell a hard sci-fi story of an astronaut on a disastrous mission to a distant black hole. The narrative is told with a complex blend of progressive metal, space rock, and blackened death, churning crossways over one another as the arc of tension draws taut or releases. As the astronaut drifts through endless space towards his destination, you may pick up the nebulous evocations of Pink Floyd or even Rush. As the terminal dangers of the black hole begin to reveal itself, cosmic bursts of brutality pummel slivers of Arcturus and a spacier Behemoth into your skull. The vocals come in a variety of forms, ranging from dry, crackling growls to sonorous cleans and even using vocoder effects representing the onboard computer to enhance the spaciness of the record.

Though the single-track format provokes a suitably epic atmosphere, the record is quite lean at 31 minutes. That running time is full of great riffs and moody reflection, particularly around the halfway point where an absolutely brutal barrage announces the arrival at the accretion disc around the black hole. But it’s the many fluid transitions that make the record, drawing you in as the story progresses and holding on with that “just a little further” effect as the tension is built up, released, reflected upon, and built again. The excellent performances finish it off. The growls have body, the guitars are varied, the bass rumbles satisfyingly. The clean vocals don’t always convince entirely but they’re technically sufficient. The drums are a particular highlight, courtesy of one Brandon Heinz, with a precise and diverse approach that often surprises and never disappoints.

There are some nits to pick with Echoes, though. The music and story don’t always line up, particularly towards the end, where the arc’s closure is accompanied by more doom-oriented pacing, and it does feel a little anticlimactic. On occasion, the introspective space rock stretches its welcome a bit too long, and though the vocoder sets the mood, it suffers from overuse as well. The production is similarly quite good on the whole, but not without a drawback or two. The sound is crisp and clear, particularly on the quieter sections. However, the mix is largely solid, though it seems to waver in some sections where the drums, good as they are, overpower a little. The mastering is a bit loud as well, which is particularly notable when the music itself turns louder. Neither is a coup de gras, but they’re notes that show Wills Dissolve still have room to grow.

If you were unfamiliar with Wills Dissolve, well, that makes at least two of us. The Houston foursome had no clout from prior bands, and the impact their debut The Heavens Are Not On Fire made was positive but small. Yet their writing and performances outpace many bands several times their senior. Unwaveringly dedicated to their narrative of the agoraphobic horrors of deep space and marrying it to a tour de force of a genre-sweeping soundtrack, Echoes shows the band well on their way to the top of their game. I’m convinced their best album is still ahead of them, but until then, they’ve made their definite mark. A big thanks to Hypnotic Dirge for allowing us to premiere this excellent spacefaring quest in prog death form. Now go listen to it, if you weren’t doing that already!

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hypnotic Dirge
Websites: willsdissolve.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/willsdissolveband
Releases Worldwide: August 28th, 2020

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