A few days ago I was reading an article by Thomas Hatton on proglodytes.com titled “Some of modern prog’s best frontmen are … women”. It makes the point that the progressive rock genre is usually regarded as something reserved for the male of our species, a decorative accessory to the boys’ toys that we use to proclaim our macho credentials. The article goes on to champion a few of the exceptions to that rule and it promised to be Quite Interesting™.
It’s no secret that Crotchety Man has always been a fan of the prog rock bands of the seventies but these days I am very cautious about music that carries the ‘prog’ label. To my mind there is a deep chasm between the progressive rock of Genesis, Yes or King Crimson and the louder, harsher and (apparently) more numerous metal bands. The difference is quite clear to me because I love prog and loath metal. And yet, for some reason that I am unable to fathom, the two have developed an overlapping fanbase.
So, when Mr. Crotchety was tempted to swim with the proglodytes, he dipped his toes carefully into the dark and potentially dangerous water. Most of the tracks featured in the article fall squarely on the wrong side of the subsea trench but three bands teetered perilously close to the edge: Bent Knee, iNFiNiEN and Dreadnought. The last of those was completely new to me but with sax, mandolin and flute among the listed instruments they didn’t sound like typical head-banger types.
The website article featured a track called To Luminous Scale from Dreadnought‘s latest album, A Wake in Sacred Waves. That song is another that is on YouTube but blocked in the UK (here’s a link) but it’s available on Spotify, SoundCloud and Bandcamp.
The song starts pleasantly enough with gentle guitar arpeggios, a wash of synthesised ocean swell and folky vocal harmonies. A sleek dark shape glides through the water somewhere between the sunlit surface waves and Neptune’s sleeping, unlit underworld. A soft light reflects off the creature’s iridescent scales; large eyes pierce the liquid gloom; bony teeth flash pearly white in its gaping mouth. Half fish, half dragon, its appetite never satisfied, it lures its prey with luminescent organs. A bloodcurdling cry signals the brutal dispatch of another curious visitor and then, as the meal is digested, a flute sings a restful tune.
To Luminous Scale clings to the prog side of the underwater canyon but it calls frantically to the metal side with a brief spell of Kelly Schilling’s screaming growls. There are words somewhere down in the murk, too, but they are almost completely unintelligible. It probably doesn’t matter, though; the Scale works perfectly well as an instrumental.
On the evidence of this one track Crotchety Man agrees with Thomas Hatton that Dreadnought have two of the best female frontmen in modern prog (Lauren Vieira on keys complements Kelly Schilling’s guitar and flute). Unfortunately, the other tracks on the album sink heavily into the metal abyss and, by Crotchety Man’s reckoning, are thereby disqualified from consideration.
Verdict: Nice try, Dreadnought, but come back when you’ve consigned the ‘harsh’ vocals to Davy Jones locker.