There is something lurking beneath the pretty harmonies and soaring guitar work on ReAwakening, something you can glimpse when you stare into the album’s cover, a monochromatic presentation of what appears to be four or five different landscapes arranged around a misty hilltop, upon which hooded figures, trees and tombstones dance around each other as clouds and fog perform a sort of Shakespearean framing of this eerie moment. It’s the perfect image for the prog rock within, where epic riffs and precise piano work meet in the Venn Diagram that is Dusks Embrace.
With nearly a year of band history per track on this year’s release, it is hard to tell the full story of this record by simply name-checking Queensrÿche or Opeth, regardless of how apt that might be. You could go on about Josh Brewer’s guitar playing, which ranges from the blackest of death metal, through the indiest of rock, on to the most competent Eric Johnson soloing (and, at times, is even loungy, where the piano and guitar paint a cocktail bar atmosphere during “Psychastenia”). But even that is only part of the story. The rhythm section of this group is certainly a boon, as both Myke and Liam are a rock-solid unit, that can follow the band through any genre-bending, tempo-changing place the story happens to be taking us.
Classical guitar references might intermingle with Late-Period Deep Purple, or even a Metallica riff here and there, and while the synthesizer filigree most certainly point Dusks Embrace in their own direction, what seals the deal are the vocals, which are not only evocative and beautifully delivered by Aldo (and, when appropriate, Josh too). Where albums like this can often be full of pomp and circumstance, or even self-aggrandizing fantasy, these songs evoke and kind of introspection and contemplative beauty that betrays their Coheed and Cambria influence. ReAwakening is not emo wallowing à la Avenged Sevenfold, nor is it creepy in a way that explores the mindset of some horrific villain. Rather, this album beckons for you to be drawn in, to envelop yourself in that same fog from the cover, and to explore these personal moments we spend by ourselves, but this time together, as we join in as part of the song. It is almost Homeric, as we become part of the story where the sun is setting, and we are trying to find our way in this confusing world, glancing at where we’ve come over the last eight years, and how we will get to our next destination. Hoping that, in some way, the experiences of this album can offer us some companionship as we continue on our merry way.
Fortunately for listeners, this music is dense, and there’s a lot to dig into for people who are new to the group. “Lydian Dreams” is practically the band showing off, going through nearly six genre changes before it’s through, while still fitting the band’s overall metal-tinged image. The vocal range on this record is much more dynamic, and just look at the way they play with tempo in “With Cleansing Flame.” Little touches like that really illustrate the care with which this record was assembled, nowhere more apparent than in album closer, “ReAwakening,” which contains elements of his previous record, plus riffs from the first song Josh ever wrote.
Clearly, Dusks Embrace has found an incredible band in the group assembled to create this record. The performers are not only up to the songwriting displayed here, but really give life to his songs and ideas. You can tell why he wanted to expand the pallet of this project, which had largely been “in the bedroom” for the first four years. While never boring, Josh was limited to what he could play, sing and record on his own. Josh’s songwriting has not only matured since then – thus requiring the talents of a group like this – but he manages to sew into the songs on this record musical cues and reference points to everything that stirs his imagination, something you need more than just yourself to successfully capture, on this or any album.
Dusks Embrace has certainly evolved over the years, and fortunately for people who have high expectations, this record does not disappoint. It not only showcases what they do best – beautiful, haunting music with epic solos and beautiful melodies – but sounds like they have learned from all eight years of being a band. This is a great entry point for new listeners who love precision guitar playing, breathtaking vocal arrangements, and a killer set of tunes.