Stadium rock filtered through vaguely underground aesthetics seems like such a fucking weird thing to do, but hey, here are Dool to do just that. The whole dichotomy of dark/introspective lyrics and radio friendly melody is hardly anything new at this point but it will never stop feeling a tad on the contrived side, and can often veer into self-parody. There’s also a feeling that this is basically just ‘pop rock’ for people who are too cool to admit to liking music like this but can rationalise it when it’s played by people from underground bands (The Devil’s Blood and Gold in this case).
That aesthetic argument is perhaps for another day however, and a band’s audience is entirely out of their control. What we’re talking about here is the music the Dutch band present on this new album. And it’s objectively an extremely well crafted, if perhaps overly polite, set of goth tinged pop rock that’s got more hooks than a fisherman’s convention. Politeness gets you everywhere of course, but it can also make you really fucking boring. Dool don’t entirely avoid that trap. We’ll get to that later.
Let’s start with the twin peaks of the record, the melodramatic title track Summerland and the sheer ear candy Sulphur & Starlight. These two tracks encapsulate everything that’s best about Dool – their knack for building and developing a song that marries atmosphere and craftsmanship in a way that lines them up somewhere between HIM, for melodic smarts and accessibility, and recent Tribulation for atmospherics and instrumentation. You can picture drunk twenty something’s at Download roaring along with the choruses pretty easily. It’s a weird mixture but let me put it another way : it’s interesting to note that black metal titans Beherit and proto-grunge legends King’s X both had songs called Summerland, and it’s tempting to believe that Dool are very aware of both those bands.
…the melodramatic title track Summerland and the sheer ear candy Sulphur & Starlight. These two tracks encapsulate everything that’s best about Dool…
When Summerland is good, it’s very good. But at times the spectre of the fucking Rasmus (you know who they are, Google them) floats a little too close for comfort and it all feels a little Eurovison. In places the vocals are too squeaky, the feel a bit too emo, and the result is that a song like Ode To The Future has a main body which feels throwaway until they kick in to a doomier section towards the end. And if you’re telling me Be Your Sins isn’t a Ghost knock off, you’re clearly fucking deaf.
The darkness at the heart of Dool is perhaps manifested more clearly in their lyrics and aesthetic but it’s not always as prominent in the music as it feels it should be. Perhaps that works in their favour, the light and shade seem naturally entwined. Closer Dust & Shadow overcomes an overly melodramatic intro to become an engaging epic that provides the third pinnacle on the album.
Summerland is a grower. The first half is stacked with the more instant music, but the initial listen will perhaps grate on you if you aren’t used to such bombastic catchiness and polished production. It takes a while to start spotting the dirt under the manicured fingernails, so to speak, and that’s really what makes Dool interesting underneath the sheen. They’re far more ambitious than most bands to emerge from the shadows of the metal-related underground, but it’s hard to see them moving beyond it.
A perplexing, but overall enjoyable album that I fear might not quite reach the more mainstream audience it’s probably deserving of.
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes